Revisiting the early stages of the French military occupation in the Papal States after the fall of the Roman republic (1849), this article takes into analysis the system of protection that the French authorities gradually built to allow liberal militants to elude political repression. A flexible French police administration was created to prevent the Roman police from arresting liberals and organize their transfer out of the Papal States. The French area of occupation became one of the main hubs of the cross-Mediterranean drift of refugees and exiles after 1848. Studying the internal and international constraints underlying the French policies of protection in Central Italy, the debates among the French agents and the conflicts between them and the local authorities leads the author to reflect on the mid-century transformation of the Papal States into an anomalous zone of shared sovereignty.
Keywords: Military occupation, exile, sovereignty.