In the last years, the pressure of migratory flows towards Europe highlighted the criticalities and weakness of a society already characterized by profound contradictions. We are back to talking about sovereignty, territory, borders, identity, conflicts; the need for a discussion on the control and management of diversity emerged. In this sense, it seemed plausible to explore some examples of the legal tradition and to reactivate, in particular, a reasoning on pluralism. The challenge of the multi-ethnic state, of a «modern» that «is returning to its original complexity and to the awareness of a permanent plurality», is opening up a series of questions about the «historical alternatives» to the national state. An unusual attention for the empire as a place of good practices of construction, overlapping and mixing of flexible identities has emerged. In particular, historiography has given some attention to the Ottoman Empire and the millet system as an exemplary model of multicultural, multireligious and multilingual cohabitation. The essay traces the positions of the most recent historiography on Ottoman pluralism as a model of tolerance. Although the millet system cannot replicate itself, it certainly offers rulers and scholars an excellent measure on the progress made in the field of guaranteeing the rights of minorities.