Bridging central state and local communities' territorial visions: boundary commissions and the making of Iberian borders, 1750&-1900 Articles uri icon

publication date

  • July 2017

start page

  • 52

end page

  • 61


  • 57

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0305-7488

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1095-8614


  • This paper offers an interpretation of the role of the international joint boundary commissions that were set up in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to accurately define and demarcate state borders in the Iberian peninsula. Following recent work on the history of boundary commissions and modern state-driven boundary making, we advance some elements for a renewed and comparative understanding of European boundary commissions as a crucial means of territorialization within the larger process of state-building. The paper highlights both the complexity of interactions between different actors involved in boundary making and the multiscalar nature of the process itself, which involved more than simple centre versus periphery dynamics of imposition and contestation. It is argued that boundary commissions created an institutional space for the circulation of different forms of knowledge and territorial visions of the border, as well as for the connection between different actors and scales implied in the process. Analysing the central role played by boundary commissions also helps to understand how local communities' territorial visions were made relevant and how their interests were taken into account in the delimitation of Iberian political borders.


  • state borders; fronteras; espaƱa; portugal; state-building