Project

Back to overview

Deconstructing Fraudulent Indigenous Utopias: A History of Failed Miskitu and Mapuche Loans on European Money Markets in the Age of Revolutions

Applicant Clavel Damian
Number 201781
Funding scheme Ambizione
Research institution Historisches Seminar Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline General history (without pre-and early history)
Start/End 01.10.2021 - 30.09.2025
Approved amount 742'902.00
Show all

All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
General history (without pre-and early history)
Political science
Economics

Keywords (10)

Europe; South America; Central America; capital markets; 19th century; American Indigenous peoples; economic history; microhistory; financial fraud; informal empire

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Au cours de la première moitié du XIXe siècle, le monde a connu une profonde métamorphose économique et politique de ses fondements institutionnels. Malgré la vaste littérature disponible, les études existantes ont généralement exclu les Peuples Indigènes américains de ces transformation globales. Or, l'étude d'archives dispersées et éparses révèle l'existence de tentatives d’emprunts Miskitu et Mapuche sur les marchés des capitaux européens.
Lay summary

L'effondrement des structures impériales ibériques après les guerres napoléoniennes a donné lieu à plusieurs expériences politiques et financières dans les Amériques. Adoptées par des entités politiques nouvelles (p.ex. Colombie, Chili, Pérou), celles-ci ont permis la diffusion d’institutions globales (démocraties, États souverains, finance capitaliste). Cependant, d'autres entreprises politiques et financières ont envisagé, sans succès, la mise en place de cadres institutionnels utopiques, y compris certains Peuples Indigènes américains. 

Réexaminant deux épisodes d'emprunts internationaux généralement considérés comme frauduleux, ce projet décrit la dégradation rapide des conditions d'accès aux marchés des capitaux européens pour les Peuples Indigènes américains au XIXe siècle. Basé sur une enquête micro-historique, ce projet étudie les expériences utopiques et financières des Miskitu dans les années 1820 et des Mapuche dans les années 1860. Au prisme de leurs intermédiaires financiers respectifs, Joseph Mérilhou et Antoine de Tounens, cette étude révèle d'abord comment ces emprunteurs Indigènes américains ont cherché à accéder aux marchés financiers français et anglais. Elle met ensuite en évidence comment ces efforts ont été exclus des marchés européens en raison de leur "indigénéité". 

Cette recherche renverse la perspective historiographique typique des régimes financiers internationaux du XIXe siècle en révélant les efforts déployés par des Peuples Indigènes américains pour façonner leurs interactions avec les empires et la finance européennes. Elle engage également un débat méthodologique sur les défis de l'analyse des échecs institutionnels et l'adoption d'une perspective micro-analytique multidisciplinaire dans l'histoire économique et politique globale.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 02.09.2021

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Abstract

Revisiting two episodes of international borrowing generally depicted as fraud, this project sheds light on the rapid degradation of the conditions of access to European foreign loan markets for Indigenous American polities in the first half of the 19th century. Focusing on the Central American Miskitu and the South American Mapuche as case studies, this research reveals dynamics indicative of the competing experiences that served as a backdrop to the political and economic reconfigurations of the Atlantic World during the Age of Revolution. Studying closely the details of Miskitu and Mapuche foreign loans that never concretely materialized from the vantage point of their agents and promoters, this study first reveals how these Indigenous borrowers actually sought to access 19th-century European capital markets. It then highlights how these particular endeavors, because they stemmed solely from Indigenous projects, were excluded from European capital markets based on their “indigeneity.”The collapse of Iberic imperial structures following the Napoleonic Wars gave way to several European and creole political, commercial, and social experiments in Europe and the Americas. These enabled the development and diffusion of a number of institutional frameworks around the world, such as democratic institutions, sovereign states, and capitalist industries. Some of these were embraced by new-and still existing-political entities emerging from the ashes of the Spanish and Portuguese empires (e.g., Colombia, Chile, and Peru). However, other political and financial endeavors unsuccessfully envisioned the implementation of promising institutional havens for the aspirations of actors navigating these reconfigurations, including American Indigenous populations. Based on a microhistorical investigation, this project uncovers the utopian and financial experiences of the Miskitu in the 1820s and the Mapuche in the 1860s. The investigation will take place through the lens of their respective financial intermediaries, Joseph Mérilhou and Antoine de Tounens, both of whom acted as the European go-betweens hired to implement the concrete realization of the utopian projects of their borrowers through European formal or over-the-counter markets.The expected outcomes of this project are threefold. The first and foremost output will be a monograph, which will retrace the European financial histories of these failed Miskitu and Mapuche loans, thus shedding new light on these episodes of 19th-century Indigenous borrowing on European money markets. Second, a series of workshops culminating in a conference gathering scholars studying the history of Indigenous polities across time and space from an economic perspective will be organized. Third, three articles studying questions regarding Indigenous finance will be submitted for publication in top-tier journals.This original research seeks to flip the typical historiographical perspective on 19th-century international financial regimes by revealing the efforts of Indigenous polities to shape their interactions with the agents of European trade and finance. It will also allow for engagement in a methodological conversation on the challenges of analyzing institutional failures (e.g., dispersed empirical evidence and fragmented literature), and the issues related to the adoption of a multidisciplinary microanalytical perspective in global economic and political history.
-