Conformation of Borders and Imperial Dynamics in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, 1500-1920

Researcher in charge: Miguel Ángel de Bunes Ibarra





This research group has as its principal objective the analysis of the imperial powers that emerged in southern Europe and in the Atlantic worlds in the early modern period, (1500-1920).  The principal aim is to understand the strategies of the Spanish Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire.

The first aim is to delineate the military and political characteristics of each of the great supranational states that emerged in Europe and the Mediterranean in this period, as well as the Spanish international relocation in the Mediterranean environment during the contemporary age.  In order to achieve this objective, members of the group will begin by looking at the criteria used by these states in order to make major policy decisions.  The examination of the mechanics of power, in other words, is a priority in understanding the broader strategic ambitions of these states.  The analysis of frontiers and the role of the 'peripheral regions' of these states offers a series of insights into the conflicts between these great powers, and in turn it should offer new perspectives on how the great powers established themselves in these borderlands, telling us a great deal about the divergent pressures that exerted influence upon statesmen and planners and so came to shape events. In this stage, the focus will fall on these frontier regions.

In the case of the Mediterranean the study of patterns of trade and interchange and of conflict and competition has underlined the importance of understanding how geographical, environmental and economic factors influenced the strategies of the Spanish Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire in the 1500s and 1920.  Focus falls upon the emergence of new societies which were largely the result of the attempts by the two great powers to impose their authority on ‘foreign’ countries.  Apart from the different patterns of political organisation and the diverging means by which power was exercised, we have to take into consideration the respective religious ideologies of the Spanish Habsburgs and Ottoman Turks and recognise that the conflict was largely justified and legitimised by confessional criteria.

For these reasons, the description of this military frontier will provide an analysis of narrowly political phenomena, although religious, social, military and economic factors were never entirely absent from the thinking of statesmen, commanders and planners.  Similarly the very means of organisation – the administrative and logistical systems employed by the Habsburgs and Ottomans – cannot be overlooked or forgotten. In the course of the seventeenth century, new factors came to assume major importance, transforming the traditional life of the Mediterranean: the wars fought in other theatres of arms by the Spanish Monarchy and the Sublime Porte came to influence their presence in the mare nostrum.  Specifically, the attempts by the Habsburgs of Spain to achieve European hegemony and control of the Atlantic worlds would have profound consequences for the Mediterranean, the same is true in the 19th and 20th century as a result of the colonial tuevieron place during those processes.

The essential aim of this project is to provide an explanation of the global impact of the phenomena of imperial statecraft in the early modern period, taking as a basis the idea that many characteristics of Spanish imperial organisation in the New Worlds had their origins in the Mediterranean. In addition to understanding the workings of these systems in isolation, the ambition is to compare them with patterns of war, conflict and collaboration that were found in other theatres of war and at other periods of history, trying to establish similarities and differences between models of action.


Related webs


Dept. of Modern History

Research Groups