Pandemics as Driver towards Modern Borders

How did attempts at sanitary control impact the emergence of borders between countries?

Project Summary

This project explores the interconnection between epidemiological containment measures and the development of the modern state and the international state systems, as exemplified in the development of borders in South-Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century. The project seeks to show that after the last major plague epidemics, measures to contain infectious diseases were essential factors in the development of the idea of modern borders, the emergence of the modern state and even the international system.

The research questions it examines are

  • How did attempts at sanitary control impact the emergence of borders between countries?
  • What were the unintended consequences of control actions upon the perception and practice of borders?

The research methods used in this project are discourse and content analysis of diplomatic sources, cross-referenced with public records and statements, and historical analysis of known facts from a fresh perspective.

Additionally, it draws attention to the importance of the South-Eastern European region as a crucial factor in European developments from the late early modern period onwards.


Borders and Contagion. Ottoman Administration of Bosnia Between Border Reinforcement and Health Protection (1866–1867)

This paper aims to highlight the role played and the measures taken by the administration of the Ottoman Vâlî Topal Osman Pasha during the cholera waves of 1866 and 1867 in the vilâyet-i Bosna. Through the study of Swiss, Ottoman, Italian, and French documents, the paper analyses the strategy and the nature of the sanitary measures taken by the imperial provincial administration and their use in border disputes between Austro-Hungarian Dalmatia, Ottoman Bosnia, and Montenegro. In this way, it will be possible to answer the following questions: What was the role of the Governor General Osman Pasha in the development and imposition of sanitary measures against the epidemics of 1866-7? Were they based only on medical knowledge or on the defence of local social and economic interests as well? And, finally, did these measures contribute in any way to the strengthening of the political-sanitary borders between Bosnia, Dalmatia, and Montenegro?

Research Team

Marcus Pyka
Franklin University Switzerland

Bernd Bucher
Franklin University Switzerland


Giorgio Ennas
Principal Member
European University Institute





Policy domains


Host Institution