Regina Grafe

Professor of Early Modern HistoryRegina_Grafe_100x120

Head of Department


Fields of research

  • Early modern history of the Hispanic World
  • Global economic and social history
  • The history of state and empire-building
  • Colonial governance
  • Comparative history of private and public commercial institutions and legal norms

Current research projects

  • Institutional Diversity and European Expansion, 1450-1850. What explains the astonishing unfolding of European commercial hegemony in the first age of globalisation into the 19th  century? Historians have argued that Europe’s edge in global trade depended on a modernisation process from corporatist pre-modern organization to competitive capitalist institutions, the so-called “Rise of the West” rooted in intellectual, military, political and demographic transformations that underpinned intra-European competition and extra-European expansion. At the heart of the narrative is the idea that competition between European polities helped the emergence over time of a succession of commercial institutions each of which improved on the previous. By contrast I investigate the hypothesis that that institutional and legal diversity rather than a diachronic succession of first best solutions were the crucial driving forces of European commercial expansion. I argue that institutional diversity, multifunctionality and complementarity allowed for the establishment of markets in vastly diverse cultural, legal, religious and socio-political environments

Current seminars at the EUI

Selected recent publications

  • (2020) ‘An Empire of debts? The Spanish Empire and its colonial realm’ in Barreyre, N. and Delalande, N. A World of Debts: A global political history. (Palgrave Macmillan)
  • (2019) ‘New Imperial Economies’ (with Jorge Pedreira) in Bouza, F., Cardim, P. and Feros, A. The Iberian world 1400-1800. (Routledge), London and New York, pp.582-614.
  • (2018) ‘Families, firms, and polities: Pre-Modern Institutions, Economic Growth, and the Great Divergence.’ In Global Economic History, edited by Giorgio Riello and Tirthankar Roy, 82-101. London et al.: Bloomsbury Academic. (with Maarten Prak)
  • (2018) ‘Empires of Charity: Imperial Legitimacy and Profitable Charity in Colonial Spanish America.’  New Global Studies 12 (2):131-155.
  • (2012) Distant Tyranny. Markets, Power and Backwardness in Spain, 1650-1800. Princeton, (Princeton University Press) 291pp.


Spanish, English, German, Italian



For appointments please contact the Administrative Assistant: Fabrizio Borchi

  • Postal address: 
    Department of History and Civilization 
    Via Bolognese 156 
    50139 Florence - Italy

Office SAMN262 at Villa Salviati, Manica


Page last updated on 25 January 2021

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