Christopher Denis-Delacour

Flying the Pope's flag. The commercial exploitation of the Roman flag in Mediterranean mercantile policies (18th century)

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Analysing the way flags are used on ships allows us to better grasp the ambiguity of all attempts at «nationalising» maritime trade. This raises the question of those hitherto unthought-of aspects that proceed from the legislative formalisation of the use of flags. In other words, how and on what levels do national regulations come up against competition from other legislations with regard to the use of flags? The present essay aims to explore this question through the example of the Papal States in the 18th century and the study of legal and social negotiations related to the regulation of flags. By choosing an observation point beyond the «monopolistic trade», I am here attempting to comprehend, in their diversity, the role, and limits of the Papal regulations and Papal institutional and economic intermediaries, notably consuls and ship captains, as regards trade in the Mediterranean. Taking as its starting point a Papal case that was, for a long time, emblematic of a certain weakness on the part of the state, this essay proposes to densify the understandings of circulation in the Mediterranean.

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