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A Genealogy of Corruption. Administrative Malpractice and Political Modernization in Eighteenth Century Wallachia

Project description

Corruption in 18th-century south-eastern Europe

The transition from the Old Regime to the modern European states in the 18th and 19th centuries was associated with separation of the public and private spheres. Now, practices such as corruption have been identified with the abuse of public office. The phenomenon of corruption is extensively studied in northern Europe and Northern America where its restricted role is explained as successful state-building. However, in south-eastern Europe, corruption is treated as a natural feature and not a problem of governance. The EU-funded GenCorr project will investigate the emergence of administrative malpractice in 18th-century Wallachia using archival and published sources. It offers the first structured research of corruption-like practices, discourses and reactions of contemporaries to the practice.


The transition from the Old Regime to modern European states in the 18th and 19th centuries entailed a transformation in the meaning of “corruption”. While seen as a moral failure from Antiquity to the Early Modern period, with the separation of the public and private domains in the 18th and 19th centuries, corruption came to be strictly defined as the abuse of public office. Until now, this particular transition has been studied only in Western and Northern Europe and in North America, where the reduced level of administrative corruption came to be seen as part and parcel of successful state-building. Although corruption in Southeastern Europe has received ample attention, it has been mostly treated as a quasi-natural characteristic of the region, and completely ignored as a problem of governance. My project addresses this problem by scrutinizing the emergence of the problem of administrative malpractice in the long 18th century Wallachia. Based on archival and published sources (judicial decisions, regulations, chronicles, travelogues etc.), the project offers the first systematic study of the practices which can be called corrupt, of the discourses about corruption and of the reaction of contemporaries to this phenomenon. The importance of the project lies in throwing light on processes of modernization in Southeastern Europe prior to the adoption of the Western cultural and political model during the 19th century.


Net EU contribution
€ 162 806,40
93053 Regensburg

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Bayern Oberpfalz Regensburg, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 162 806,40