There is to this day no article on the 'Adventurer' in any major European encyclopedia and little research has in fact been done on the historical, sociological, political or indeed European dimensions of this figure. Only recently have French historians turned their attention to the subject, notably in the well-documented studies of 18th century (ancien régime) adventurers by S. Roth (Paris 1980) and A. Stroev (Paris 1997). Far from being a peculiarly 18th century phenomenon, however, the figure of the adventurer is a type that recurs from the 16th to the 20th century, and in this larger historical framework its dominant characteristics become evident: social and geographical (above all European) mobility and multilingualism. Whether in the guise of the brilliant aristocrat of French absolutism or of the inter-war years' spy, the adventurer has always been a traveller between worlds, the world his only habitat.
If mobility, then, is the defining quality of the adventurer from the 16th to the 20th century, it seems even at this preparatory stage of the Colloquium that we are in fact dealing with the first genus of true Europeans. Whether soldier or diplomat, knight errant or spy, the adventurer plies a polyglot existence, not infrequently armed with the passports of several European governments, and is at home in every country of Europe. These were the first modern men and women to define themselves not in terms of a national but of a European identify, the first to exhibit a European sense of cultural and historical belonging. The type of the adventurer cannot, however, in its definition, history geneaology or sociology be the preserve of any one academic discipline. If the individual biography falls within the ambit of history and political science, theoretical considerations of the adventurer involve such sociological issues as mobility theory, role-playing and deviance phenomena, while the adventurer-myth, as the product of a fictionalising process.