A house divided: The implications of land expropriated during the Napoleonic years—A case study in the Papal States Christopher Korten
Journal of Modern European History
First Published March 9, 2020 Abstract Church-owned lands throughout Europe were confiscated by the French over more than two decades between 1790 and 1814. This action, which became a French financial policy during this period, has been much discussed. We know about the processes undertaken for the transaction of such large-scale sell-offs; we are also familiar with the types of buyers involved in a given region; and we understand the economic results of these sales. However, we have little or no information about what happened to these properties and their owners following the defeat of Napoleon. This article discusses the consequences of land confiscation during the French Revolution and how uniquely the Papal States dealt with problems in relation to the rest of Europe. While most of the affected continent was content to move on and validate the private commercial transactions that had taken place, the papacy, with its hybrid form of government—half-church, half-state—challenged many of these transactions. Former ecclesiastical owners of such lands contested the validity of these sales, mainly purchased by members of the bourgeoisie or the aristocracy. These legal quarrels were acrimonious and created division within the Papal States, the consequences of which have never been considered.