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Prostitution, violence, and their control

Seminar Tutor

Jonathan Davies

Site Visit

Ca' Rampane and the Ponte dei Pugni. Meet at Campo Sant'Aponal.

Seminar Questions

  • How serene was the society of the 'Serenissima'?
  • What forms did violence take in the Republic of Venice and how was it controlled?
  • How did the popolani act as forces of order and disorder in Venetian society?

Key Texts

Chambers, David, and Brian Pullan (eds), Venice: A Documentary History 1450-1630 (Oxford, 1992; rept. Toronto, 2001), pp. 87-91, 97-113, 120-130.

Davis, Robert C., 'The Police and the Pugni: Sport and Social Control in Early-Modern Venice', Stanford Humanities Review 6.2 (1998)

Van Gelder, Maartje,'The People's Prince. Popular Politics in Early Modern Venice', Journal of Modern History, 90 (2018): 249-291.

Clarke, Paula, 'The Business of Prostitution in Early Renaissance Venice,' Renaissance Quarterly 68 (2015), 419-464.


Bullfight in Campo S. Polo, 17th century

Cadorin, Matteo, Bullfight in Piazza San Marco, 17th century

Frontispiece of Alessandro Caravia, La verra antìga de castellani, canaruoli, e gnatti, con la morte di Giurco e Gnani (Venice, 1550)

Medal commemorating the murder of Alessandro de' Medici, duke of Florence by Lorenzino de' Medici in 1537

Further Reading

Bullen Presciutti, Diana, '"A Most Beautiful Brawl": Beholding Splendor and Carnage in Renaissance Italy' Artibus et Historiae 72 (2015) 63-83

Caravia, Alessandro, 'La verra antiga de Castellani, Canaruoli, e Gnatti, con la morte de Giurco e Gnagni', Venezia Cinquecento 2/3 (1992),141-65

Carroll, Linda L., ‘Carnival Rites as Vehicles of Protest in Renaissance Venice’, Sixteenth Century Journal 16 (1985), 487-502.

Chojnacka, Monica, ‘Women, Charity and Community in Early Modern Venice: The Casa delle Zitelle’, Renaissance Quarterly 51 (1998), 68-91

Dall'Aglio, Stefano, The Duke's Assassin: Exile and Death of Lorenzino de' Medici, trans. Donald Weinstein (New Haven, 2015)

Davidson, Nicholas S., ‘An Armed Band and the Local Community on the Venetian Terra Ferma in the Sixteenth Century’, in Gherardo Ortalli (ed.), Bande armate, banditi, banditismo e repressione di giustizia negli stati europei di antico regime (Rome, 1986)

Davis, Robert C., The War of the Fists: Popular Culture and Public Violence in Late Renaissance Venice (New York, 1994)

Davis, Robert C., 'The Trouble with Bulls: The Cacce dei Tori in Early Modern Venice', Histoire Sociale/Social History 29 (1996), 275-90

Dean, Trevor, and K.J.P. Lowe (eds), Crime, Society and the Law in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge, 1994)

Dean, Trevor, and K.J.P. Lowe (eds), Murder in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge, 2017)

Dean, Trevor, ‘Marriage and Mutilation: Vendetta in Late Medieval Italy’, Past and Present 157 (1997), 3-36. JSTOR

Eisenach, Emlyn, Husbands, Wives, and Concubines: Marriage, Family and Social Order in Sixteenth Century Verona (Kirksville, MO, 2004)

Faggion, Lucien, 'Violence, Rites and Social Regulation in the Venetian Terra Firma in the Sixteenth Century', in Jonathan Davies (ed.), Aspects of Violence in Renaissance Europe (Farnham, 2013), pp. 185-204.

Ferraro, Joanne M., 'Making a Living: The Sex Trade in Early Modern Venice', The American Historical Review 123/1 (2018), 30–59

Ferraro, Joanne M., Marriage Wars in Late Renaissance Venice (New York, 2001)

Franco, Veronica, Poems and Selected Letters, ed. and trans. Ann Rosalind Jones and Margaret F. Rosenthal (Chicago, 1998)

Gioia, Cristina, 'Aristocratic Bandits and Outlaws: Stories of Violence and Blood Vendetta on the Border of the Venetian Republic (16th-17th Century)', in Steven G. Ellis and Lud’a Klusáková (eds), Imaging Frontiers, Contesting Identities (Pisa, 2007), pp. 93-107.

Hanlon, Gregory, ‘Violence and its Control in the Late Renaissance: An Italian Model’, in Guido Ruggiero (ed.), A Companion to the Worlds of the Renaissance (Oxford, 2002), pp. 139-57.

Johnston, Hannah, 'A Sexual Tour of Venice: Mapping a Sixteenth-Century Catalogue of Courtesans' History, 5 January 2022

Judde de Larivière, Claire, The Revolt of the Snowballs: Murano confronts Venice, 1511, translated by Thomas V. Cohen (New York and London, 2018) [EBSCO e-book]

Judde de la Rivière, Claire, and Rosa Salzberg, "The People Are the City: The Idea of the Popolo and the Condition of the Popolani in Renaissance Venice" [English translation of the article: "Le peuple est la cité: L’idée de popolo et la condition des popolani à Venise (XVe-XVIe siècles)", Annales HSS 68.4 (2013): 1113-40]

Martines, Lauro, (ed.), Violence and Civil Disorder in Italian Cities (Berkeley, 1972)

McGough, Laura, Gender, Sexuality, and Syphilis in Early Modern Venice (Basingstoke, 2010)

Medici, Lorenzino de', Apology for a Murder, foreword by Tim Parks, trans. Andrew Brown (London, 2004) [Read the foreword and the account of Francesco Bibboni of his murder of Lorenzino de' Medici]

Muir, Edward, Mad Blood Stirring: Vendetta and Factions in Friuli during the Renaissance (Baltimore, 1993) "Reader's edition" ACLS e-book

Muir, Edward, ‘The Sources of Civil Society in Italy’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History 29.3 (1999), 379-406. JSTOR

Niccoli, Ottavia, Il seme della violenza: putti, fanciulli e mammoli nell’Italia tra Cinque e Seicento (Rome, 1995)

Povolo, Claudio, L'intrigo dell'onore : poteri e istituzioni nella Repubblica di Venezia tra Cinque e Seicento (Verona, 1997)

Povolo, Claudio, 'Liturgies of Violence: Social Control and Power Relationships in the Republic of Venice between the 16th and 18th Centuries', in Eric R. Dursteler (ed.), A Companion to Venetian History 1400-1797 (Leiden, 2013), pp. 513-42. Brill e-book

Quint, David, ‘Duelling and Civility in Sixteenth-Century Italy’, I Tatti Studies 7 (1997), 231-75.

Ruggiero, Guido, The Boundaries of Eros: Sex Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice (Oxford, 1985)

Ruggiero, Guido, ‘The Cooperation of Physicians and the State in the Control of Violence in Renaissance Venice’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 33.2 (1978), 156-66. Oxford Journals

Ruggiero, Guido, Violence in Early Renaissance Venice (New Brunswick, N.J., 1980)

Ruggiero, Guido, 'Wayfarers in Wonderland: The Sexual Worlds of Renaissance Venice Revisited', in Eric R. Dursteler (ed.), A Companion to Venetian History 1400-1797 (Leiden, 2013), pp. 543-70. Brill e-book

Salzberg, Rosa. ‟The Margins in the Centre: Working Around Rialto (Venice, 16th Century)”, in The Place of the Social Margins, 1400-1800, edited by A. Spicer and J.L. Crawshaw-Stevens (Routledge, 2017), pp. 135-52.

Salzberg, Rosa, and Claire Judde de Larivière, "Comment être vénitien? Identification des immigrants et 'droit d’habiter' à Venise au XVIe siècle", Revue d'historie moderne e contemporaine 64/2 (2017): 69-92.

Salzberg, Rosa. "Controlling and Documenting Migration via Urban 'Spaces of Arrival' in Early Modern Venice", in Migration Policies and the Materiality of Identification in European Cities, 1500-1930s: Papers and Gates, edited by H. Greefs and A. Winter (Routledge, 2018), pp. 27-45.

Strocchia, Sharon T., ‘Gender and the Rites of Honor in Italian Renaissance Cities’, in Judith C. Brown and Robert C. Davis (eds), Gender and Society in Renaissance Italy (London, 1998), pp. 39-60