CORDIS - EU research results

Migration, integration and labour market: skilled workers and building sites in Turin in the Eighteenth Century

Final Report Summary - WORK AND MIGRATION (Migration, integration and labour market: skilled workers and building sites in Turin in the Eighteenth Century.)

The project Work and Migration was focused on the integration process of migrants in an early modern European city. This research has been mainly focused on access opportunities and integration strategies of immigrants in the host countries and the contributions provided by immigrants to the development of group identity. The case history assumed is the migration in Turin in the first half of 18th Century, with a focus on the migration of skilled workers of building sites. The choice of Turin has not made by chance: in that period the city was subject to a strong population increase owing to the immigration from the Savoy kingdom and nearby states (Levi 1987). The population increase led to a marked urbanization through the extension of the north-western sector of the city. In the same years Turin underwent a marked renovation planned by the architect Filippo Juvarra, who worked in Turin between 1715 and 1735. The numerous building sites that were opened in those years, including those of the Superga cathedral, Palazzo Madama, Stupinigi hunt shelter and Army headquarters, provided many job opportunities to immigrants coming from the Italian baliaggi and the state of Milan. Moreover, during the same period, a series of reforms adopted by King Vittorio Amedeo II led to marked innovations in the institutional organization of the state and the city.

The project is divided into sections and has considered the following topics:

1- Immigration and the labour market. Starting from the study of how the labour market was accessed and building sites were organized, the project aimed to conduct an analysis of the integration processes of immigrants in Turin’s society.
2- Group solidarity and identity. The importance attached by historical studies to group solidarity has attributed an important role to the shared geographical origin for determining the access to the labour market and various forms of assistance. This project aimed to understand the real force of group solidarities and the existence of «immigrants enclaves» (Portes and Wilson 1980) under different aspects.
3- Institutions and integration. Finally, this research project aimed to understand the role played by institutions in fostering the integration of migrants within the city environment.

Consistently with the interdisciplinary nature of the research, different archives sources have been analyzed, e.g. civil and criminal judicial acts (Archivio di Stato di Torino, Vicariato), notarial acts (ASTo, Insinuazione), census of population (ASTo, Censimento della popolazione), confraternities and guilds archives (ASTo, Commercio; ACSAL), works logs and accounting books of the Royal House (ASTo, Casa Reale), contract of of the General Authority for Buildings and Fortifications (ASTo, Ministero della Guerra). Different methodological approaches have been implemented, envisaging a serial analysis of data samples in certain stages and a micro-analytical approach in other stages, i.e. aimed at providing a detailed illustration of the behavior of social parties.

The research has shown the social aspects of the city building process through the study of Turin and the Piedmont building sites designed by Filippo Juvarra. The first half of the eighteenth century was for the capital of Savoy a period of great urban renewal, which attracted skilled construction workers in the city from the north-western Alps. The research has permitted a reconstruction of the social and economic context in which the new arrivals were inserted, characterized by the large presence of immigrants, frequent in the cities of the Old Regime, a highly dynamic and competitive labor market, and a building sites organization highly bureaucratized. Through the analysis of a rich corpus of archival sources this study has shown the process of the definition of social spaces through the migration experiences and the integration of foreign construction workers engaged in the construction of the city. The case study has allowed to better qualify the importance of migratory chains and solidarity between compatriots on which literature has stressed. The reconstruction of complex networks of professional relationships woven in and out of construction sites also raises the importance of those weak ties that sociologists have suggested as crucial in accessing the labor market. The geographical origin and the profession are hired by the actors as a means of self-representation on the local scene and as criteria to define social spaces. The closure of most of the construction sites at the end of the thirties, and the consequent reduction in job opportunities, produce a strong conflict between building masters who favored a redefinition of the groups less and less ethnically connoted: at this time a language centered on work and professional specialization, new for Torino, has inaugurated.

The analysis conducted in this project focused on some topics that are particularly interesting from a political, institutional and economic viewpoint. First of all, it contributes to the debate on globalization, the impact of the labour market and the role of national institutions within it. In this respect, a historical overview of those processes is necessary, especially with reference to specific policies aimed at containing immigration flows and controlling the mobility of the population implemented by governments in different countries. According to a policy shared by many member states, one of the instruments to legitimize the immigrants’ stay in European states is participation in the labour market: signing a lawful labour contract is a prerequisite to obtain the permit of residence. This research project may contribute to show the relations – often contradictory – between migration flows, labour market opportunities and the role of institutions.

This project has been focus also on the definition of the Alpine space as a really transnational area at European level. The process leading to a definition of the very fragmented Alpine regions as a historically unitary space is relatively recent. In the 1950s, along with the European integration process, a series of initiatives were implemented aimed at the preservation of the landscape and artistic heritage and the search for a common historical and cultural identity of the Alpine area, which was characterized by a great number of borders that the European unification meant to overcome. It was a very long process, leading to the Convention of the Alps being signed in 1991 by eight states and the European Community. Parallel to this definition process of the Alpine space as a unitary space, a specific historical interest emerged for those regions. The first researcher who spotted an autonomous historical problem in the Alpine regions was F. Braudel (Braudel 1949), although he considered it as a marginal area with reference to civilization processes, which were limited to the cities and villages in the plains.
The Alpine space today is characterized by multiple identities and is considered a laboratory for the development of different cultures and minorities. This aspect was discovered through a multidisciplinary approach, with a specific contribution of anthropological studies (Viazzo 1989). Right when those regions are undergoing a re-population process, the need emerges for reflecting on the opportunities provided by a very rich area from the cultural viewpoint in the European political integration processes. It should not be considered a problem to be solved, but an additional opportunity to integrate markedly different labour markets. To this end, the historical approach of this research could help to understand the role of that market in disseminating the common traits of those cultures across different European regions.

This research has involved themes that permit disseminating its results to a vast public and not exclusively to experts. The research has worked on ancient documents - sometimes having a great historical and artistic value - is interesting in itself. The techniques for detecting, maintaining and analyzing the sources can be disclosed to the public. Moreover, the research has required consulting archive collections that still feature original drawings by Filippo Juvarra. Many of them also contain the instructions that the architect sent to the workers in the building sites. The materials are still unpublished and no specific study has been carried out on them but their historical and artistic value really deserves to be highlighted and brought to the public's attention. The dissemination of the results of the study on Filippo Juvarra's building sites may also benefit from the anniversary of the opening of the building site of one of his most important works: the Basilica of Superga. Its design dates back to 1715 while the laying of the foundation stone to 1717.