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Mediterranean Gypsies. A forgotten history beyond diaspora, nomadism, marginality in three Western Mediterranean areas of the Spanish Crown (Andalusia, Sicily, Sardinia, 16th- early 18th century)

Project description

Rethinking the history of Mediterranean Gypsies in the modern era

Historically, Mediterranean Gypsies have often been portrayed as a marginal minority of dispersed nomads. However, such derogatory interpretations are largely based on repressive institutional sources. The MSCA-funded MediterraneanGypsies project aims to change historical perspectives by reconsidering the history of Gypsy communities located in Andalusia, Sicily, and Sardinia between the 16th and early 18th century. The project will review a broad range of unpublished contemporary sources, such as customs records, notarial deeds, and parish funds that offer better insight into the lifestyle of Gypsy groups and their socioeconomic ties to the community. The outcomes will present a well-rounded narrative and more comprehensive understanding of Gypsy history.


Thanks to the collaboration in Leeds between an expert in Gypsy and Italian history (the fellow, Dr Aresu, who will restart his academic career) and a scholar in modern Spanish history (the supervisor, Dr Alonso), MediterraneanGypsies aims at a rethinking of the way the history of Gypsy people has been framed to date. It proposes an innovative interpretative paradigm, which it applies to a specific study case: Gypsy mobility in three Western-Mediterranean areas of the Spanish Crown (Andalusia, Sicily, Sardinia) in the modern era (16th, 17th and early 18th century).
Traditional reconstructions, based mainly on institutional repressive documents (e.g. acts of the Inquisition), have privileged a reductive vision of the Gypsies as a diasporic, nomadic, marginal minority that was relentlessly persecuted. By building on his previous researches, Dr Aresu will analyse instead a broad range of primary sources, mostly unpublished - from custom records to notarial deeds and parish funds -, that he will collect via an extensive archival search in Madrid, Sevilla, Palermo, Cagliari and in the Romani Collection of the University of Leeds. With an interdisciplinary approach that intersects transnational history, micro-history and historical anthropology, the project will investigate the economic and social relations of Gypsy groups both among themselves and with the other residents, scrutinise their articulated relationships with the local and state institutions, and insert their mobility strategies within the broader circulation processes existing throughout the Mediterranean as a whole. A special focus will be on the role of women, in order to challenge the mono-dimensional image of the Gypsy fortune-teller and enchantress.
Beyond its scholarly value, the project will produce and disseminate alternative narratives on Gyspy history, which can potentially counter the worrying anty-gypsyist discourses that still have currency in parts of contemporary European society.


Net EU contribution
€ 195 454,80
LS2 9JT Leeds
United Kingdom

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Yorkshire and the Humber West Yorkshire Leeds
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 195 454,80