FRAL - Appel Franco-allemand en sciences humaines et sociales

Global Governance, Local Dynamics.Transnational Regimes of Grace in the Roman Dataria Apostolica (17th Century) – GRACEFUL17

Submission summary

GRACEFUL17 seeks to build a transnational research team between the École Nationale des Chartes; the Goethe University Frankfurt; the École française and the Deutsches Historisches Institut in Rome, and the University of Reims to investigate a transnational theme: the largely overlooked governance system of papal regimes of grace that paradoxically thrived when they should have gone extinct. Scholarship emphasizes that the early modern period belonged to absolutist states and princes, not to the antiquated administrations of the papacy dispensing graces to petitioners between the Atlantic, Europe, and the Indo-Pacific. This entails that our goals encompass more than a merely empirical correction: they also require a hermeneutical shift to get a better understanding of authority and authoritative acts that remained under the historian’s radar. In sharp contrast with mainstream understandings of power, grace was operationalized as an infinite resource that, in Catholic Christendom, governed souls as much as subjects on a spectrum ranging from sacramental absolution to the routine clearing of transactions of church property. Considering the reactive style of governance in early modern European polities, we wish to undertake a Copernican turn in the history of global agencies such as early modern Catholicisms and the papacy. Our findings should not lead us back to top-down accounts of centralization but instead support the bottom up analysis of regimes of grace that flowed from diverse glocal peripheries to a polymorphic center. Global governance was underpinned by local dynamics.

In order to navigate uncharted oceans of documents in the Vatican Archives, and to manage the resulting mass of data, our research program seeks, firstly, to intertwine a team research component that furnishes representative statistical data on the broad dimensions of papal regimes of grace in the 17th Century; and a monographic component of case-studies investigating the local dynamics behind the hermetic figures emerging from papal registers. Secondly, it aims to balance this in-depth research axis into one specific type of grace–papal provision “on the ground” to lower church offices at the expense of local recruitment channels–with a transversal axis in the Companion to Grace Component that considers the full range of papal graces and institutions dispensing them in the early modern period. Thirdly, it commits to using the thus accumulated data sets as a pilot for the development of digital data management and research tools in the Digital Humanities Component that extend the life span and the accessibility of our data beyond this project. Focusing, fourthly, on the training of early career researchers for whom this grant proposal has been designed, GRACEFUL17 seeks to put grace as an organizational principle of human collectivities on the research agenda again of the humanities as well as anthropological, social and political sciences.

Project coordination


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Direction des études - Epoques moderne et contemporaine
DHI Roma Deutsches Historisches Institut Rom
CERHIC Centre d'Etudes et de Recherche en HIstoire Culturelle
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

Help of the ANR 758,209 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: August 2023 - 36 Months

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