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2013 San Diego Plenary Session
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Current Trends in Migration and Cultural Change in the Early Modern World

When: 4/5/2013
Friday, 5 April 2013, 5:30–7:00 p.m.
Where: Sheraton Marina Tower, Lobby Level, Grande Ballroom

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Plenary Session: Current Trends in Migration and Cultural Change in the Early Modern World

5:30–7:00 p.m.

Sponsor: The Renaissance Society of America

Location: Sheraton Marina Tower, Lobby Level, Grande Ballroom

Organizer and Chair: Nicholas Terpstra, University of Toronto


Ida Altman, University of Florida

Migration and Mobility in the Early Modern Spanish World

As a doctoral student I set out to examine the connections between local society in Spain and emigration to Spanish America. I found that early modern Spaniards were well equipped in terms of their historical experience, family and kinship structures, and patterns of mobility linked to the search for economic opportunity to move into the newly acquired territories of the expanding empire. As they did so they retained many of their traditions and roots in particular localities. Migration and mobility proved to be central to the formation of new societies in Spanish America. The movements of all groups — Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans — were closely interconnected. Mobility and migration — often coerced or occurring under duress in the case of Indians and Africans — to a great extent defined the ordering of and contests over geographic space, and were fundamental to the configuration of early modern Spanish American societies and interethnic relations.


David B. Ruderman, University of Pennsylvania

Jews on the Move: Mobility, Migration, and the Shaping of Jewish Culture in Early Modern Europe

Mass migrations initiated by governments as well as voluntary migrations of individuals were significant factors in shaping Jewish culture and society from the end of the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. I will assess briefly their impact on the creation of new Jewish communal structures; on the social mixing of Jews with non-Jews, both Christian and Muslim; and on the intense and regularized encounters between Jews of disparate backgrounds and traditions who were obliged to live with each other in new social settings. I will also offer some suggestions on the relationship between mobility and cultural production. How was Jewish culture — both that of intellectuals and the less educated — transformed by the constant movement characteristic of this period? Finally, I will offer some tentative reflections on how the Jewish experience of mobility and migration was different or the same compared with similar groups in the Christian and Muslim worlds.


Steve Hindle, The Huntington Library

Movers and Stayers: Migration and Social Relations in Town and Countryside, ca. 1500–1700

The early modern period is conventionally understood to be one of the first great ages of European urbanization, in which the demographic growth of towns and cities fundamentally reshaped the social and economic contours of both rural and urban landscapes. Although migration was a key motor of this process, it will be argued that the spatial mobility of early modern populations must be understood in terms not only of the movement from the rural to the urban, but also between rural spaces, in which different patterns of settlement and association made possible new forms of economic activity and of social interaction. By reconceptualizing geographical mobility more broadly in terms of the relationship between "migrant-remitting” and "migrant-receiving” environments, population turnover can be understood not only as a contribution to the increasing significance of the "urban variable,” but also as a factor in the penetration of industry into the European countryside.

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