|Business Elite Migrants and Family Histories in Restoration Naples|
|During the war against revolutionary France the King of Naples, Ferdinand IV, banished all French subjects from his kingdom. Something similar happened in 1815, when he expelled all foreign civil servants from the Neapolitan public administration. Nominally, only civil servants were forced to leave the country. However, most French négociants and entrepreneurs – the elite of the French community in Naples – feared the king’s spirit of revenge towards all countrymen of Murat, the French and Napoleonic king of Naples from 1808 until 1815. Most French bourgeois believed that the only way they could stay in their host-country consisted of convincing the Neapolitan government that they would be loyal citizens. Their written biographies and family histories became the principal means to back their applications for a residence permit.
Narrating their lives enabled some to prove their good conduct and loyalty towards the Crown. For some others, writing an autobiography was the best way of creating a new political, religious, and even national identity. However, most entrepreneurs and négociants preferred stressing their professional identity for at least two reasons. On the one hand, the authors of those memoirs hoped that belonging to a corporative and transnational business elite reduced their «Frenchness» in the eyes of the Neapolitan government. On the other hand, those elite migrants underlined their richness and worldwide networks in order to suggest to what extent their presence in the Neapolitan kingdom would be useful to the restored regime. Most of those family histories are success stories based on the technical skills and the entrepreneurial spirit of their protagonists. Reconstructing the steps of these brilliant careers served as a convincing argument to induce the king of a backward country to host those people as long as they wished to stay.
The memoirs and family histories, kept at the Archivio di Stato di Napoli, make it possible enable to examine the role of family memory in making, un-making and re-making identities in a period when new concepts as Individual and Nation were slowly re-defining subjective and collective identities all over Western Europe. At the same time, these memoirs can be considered as a kind of collective autobiography of a significant part of the foreign business community in Bourbon Naples. This paper will focus on two central research questions:
1. What can these memoirs tell us about the migrants’ self-identification with some old and new-regime collective categories, such as nation and guild?
2. To what extent (and how) did the agency of individuals shape their own images and the image of the whole French minority during the negotiation with the Neapolitan state? And how did the local government negotiate with the autobiographers?|