EAUH Conference 2018


Session SS20. Policing foreigners in European Cities During the Long Eighteenth Century

Coordinators: Vincent Denis (, David Garrioch (, Vincent Milliot (

Until the 18th century, the policing of “foreigners”, in the modern sense of subjects/citizens of a different state, was generally undertaken at the level of the city rather than of the country as a whole, and it primarily targeted travellers and those suspected of subversion. Those who came to work, or to seek refuge, were less often the objects of surveillance. Even the idea of the “foreigner” remained ambiguous and could apply to those who came from the countryside as much as to people who arrived from other states, and there have been some excellent historical studies of migrants in general. But during the eighteenth century we find indications of more rigid legal definitions, particularly for tax purposes, and these too have been the subject of excellent studies.
This session is interested in the appearance, in police practices, of a distinction of a more modern kind between domestic subjects and “foreigners”. It seeks to go beyond normative sources in order to understand the functioning, on the ground, of principles of policing concerning foreign subjects. We invite proposals for papers on questions such as:
- Why, how, and when did urban authorities begin to take an interest in “foreigners”, understood as those who came from other kingdoms or countries?
- Who was defined as a “foreigner”, in this sense, by whom, and why? Were there differences of definition, or in the application of laws or principles, according to place of origin, sex, or the rank or occupation of people of this kind?
- What forms of policing were applied to “foreigners” (in this limited sense), and how did these evolve across the long eighteenth century. What was the impact of these practices on the perception of migrants and on their treatment by the inhabitants of the city?
- What was the relationship between the policing of foreigners at the level of the town or city, and the policies pursued by the state?
Our intention is to raise questions about the differences and similarities between individual cities and towns in these respects, according to the type of city, its location in Europe (or elsewhere), and about changes over time.
Keywords: policing; migration; foreigners