Early Modern Circle 2018

Ghiberti, Paradise Doors (detail), Baptistery, Florence
Ghiberti, Paradise Doors (detail), Baptistery, Florence
(Photograph: Andrew Stephenson)

Papers for 2018

Download the programme pdf.

19 March

Professor David Garrioch (Monash University)

Fire and Social Inequality in Eighteenth-century Paris

In the 1780s, the social observer Louis-Sébastien Mercier described the smoke that rose from Paris chimneys: ‘From the tours of Notre-Dame, you can make out financial, ducal, and pontifical chimneys, smoking abundantly, whereas right next door, barely visible wisps indicate the feeble evaporation of a watery stew . . . the soups of the seminarian, the bourgeois, and the prince are very different.’ It was not just the content of the cooking pots that varied, however, but the heat beneath them. Fire was everywhere in early modern cities, but neither its benefits nor its risks were evenly distributed. This paper will examine some of the many ways in which access and exposure to fire – used for heating, cooking, lighting, and manufacturing – structured Paris society (and that of other cities) in the 18th century. It will argue that while in this period Parisians suffered from cold rather than dying of it as they had in earlier centuries, fire continued to be a key factor of social differentiation.

David Garrioch is professor of History at Monash University and has worked on 18th-century Paris, the Enlightenment, and on comparative urban history in the early modern period. His most recent book is The Huguenots of Paris and the Coming of Religious Toleration, 1685-1790 (Cambridge UP, 2014). This talk arises from an ARC--funded project on the fire history of European cities between 1550 and 1850.

16 April

Dr Sasha Handley (University of Manchester - with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions)

Contesting Cruelty: Women’s Voices and Ghost Stories in Early Modern England

This paper outlines one of the most intriguing extra-legal narrative strategies that early modern women deployed to protest mistreatment by husbands and fathers in the early eighteenth century: telling ghost stories. Focusing on a small set of manuscript and printed reports of ghostly appearances, I will examine how, why, and with what success, wives and daughters appropriated the providential meanings of ghost reports (which remained powerful in the early eighteenth century) to publicly protest against episodes of physical and emotional abuse, and material deprivation, inflicted by their male family members.

Sasha Handley is Senior Lecturer in early modern history at the University of Manchester. She has a particular interest in histories of supernatural belief, daily life, material culture and histories of emotion. She is the author of two monographs: Visions of an unseen world: ghost beliefs and ghost stories in eighteenth-century England (2007) and Sleep in Early Modern England (2016), and in 2016 she co-curated the exhibition Magic, Witches and Devils in the Early Modern World with Dr Jenny Spinks, at Manchester’s John Rylands Library.

21 May

Associate Professor Dolly MacKinnon (University of Queensland)

‘Spoke with a Broad Scottish Accent’: Slave Children in Eighteenth-century Scotland

In a portrait painted by Sir John Baptiste de Medina, James Drummond, 2nd titular duke of Perth (1673-1720), Jacobite, stands proudly looking straight into the eyes of the viewer. Immediately behind Drummond’s right hand, which rests on his helmet, the light catches on a metal collar encircling a child’s neck. A young black boy, a nameless chattel, stares up at the figure of Scottish nobility. The child is characterised by his dark skin, and what Joseph Leo Koerner, in another context, might describe as ‘his eccentric placement’ oblique to the main focus on Drummond. Within the frame, the boy, using Koerner’s conceptualisation, is simultaneously ‘more visible than others through his stand-out difference’, but the dark background from which he emerges renders him ‘less visible’ to the gaze, which is critically drawn back to Drummond. This visible and yet invisible presence acts as a metaphor for the place of slave children in Scottish history, for he is an object in the painting rather than the subject of the portrait. His experience is of the wrong sort of empire. My paper analyses child slaves in Scotland in order to demonstrate why diversity is needed in order to democratise the tales nations tell themselves about their pasts.

Associate Professor Dolly MacKinnon is a social and cultural historian known for her work on mental, physical and auditory landscapes, and a focus on historical soundscapes of early modern bells, charity children, and madness. She has published widely from her monograph, Revealing the Early Modern Landscape: Earls Colne, Essex 1500-1800 (Ashgate, 2014), co-edited books on Madness in Australia (UQP, 2003), and Exhibiting Madness (Routledge, 2011) to her recent articles ‘Correcting an Error in History’: Battlefields Memorials at Marston Moor and Naseby’, in Parergon (2015/2016), and ‘‘Hearing madness and sounding cures: recovering historical soundscapes of the asylum’, for Journal Politiques de la communication, Hor. Serie No 1 La revue Sound Studies À l’écoute du social (2017).

20 August

Dr Garritt (Chip) Van Dyk (University of Sydney)

Cultivating Luxury: Collectors, Companies and Botany in Early Modern Europe

The desire for new and exotic comestibles was an important element of European overseas trade in the early modern period. After success in the carrying trade of spices and stimulant beverages, trading companies turned towards colonial cultivation to replace foreign suppliers. At the same time, individuals and royal gardeners attempted to grow tropical plants in Europe. This article considers the connection between botanical collectors who pioneered hothouse propagation of exotic plants, and the botanical imperialism pioneered by states and companies in royal gardens and colonial territories.

Chip Van Dyk is a Junior Research Fellow in Enlightenment Studies in the Sydney Intellectual History Network at the University of Sydney. His research uses economic history to examine both commercial and cultural exchange, the relationship between food and identity, and the role that commerce has played in the transmission of ideas.

24 September

Professor John Henderson (Birkbeck College, University of London and Monash University)

Death in Florence: Plague, Prosecution and the Poor in Early Modern Florence

Plague remains a popular topic, as reflected in the continued popularity of the narrative accounts from Defoe to Manzoni to Camus which present vivid fictional recreations of what it was like to live through an epidemic. While it is the liveliness of this type of description which continues to fascinate, many histories of public health have traditionally tended to concentrate on chronicling government policies rather than the lived experience. The top-down approach also reflects the theme of contemporary political and medical rhetoric in surviving records, in which the lower levels of society were often blamed disproportionately as the spreaders and even cause of plague. In contrast, this lecture, which explores the last epidemic of plague to affect Florence in 1630-31, places less emphasis on official views. Instead it will seek to recreate the variety of experience and lively voices of the inhabitants in the city’s streets and neighbourhoods, as reflected in the wide range of trials against those who broke sanitary legislation. While analysing the extraordinary variety of ‘crimes’, from simply adopting survive strategies to robbing empty plague house, we shall also ask whether the draconian punishments prescribed in law were enforced as rigorously as in other Italian cities at the time.

John Henderson is Professor of Italian Renaissance History in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck, University of London; and Research Professor at Monash University, Melbourne. He has published a wide range of books and articles on the social, religious and medical history of medieval and renaissance Tuscany. Major monographs include: Piety and Charity in Late Medieval Florence (Oxford UP, 1994; Chicago UP, 1997; Le Lettere, Florence, 1998); The Great Pox. The French Disease in Renaissance Europe, with J. Arrizabalaga and R. French (Yale UP, 1997), and most recently The Renaissance Hospital. Healing the Body and Healing the Soul (Yale UP, 2006; Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart, 2007; Odoya, Bologna, 2016). He has also edited a number of important collections, including: Christianity and the Renaissance, with T.V. Verdon (Syracuse UP, 1990), Poor Women and Children in the European Past, with R. Wall (Routledge, 1994); The Impact of Hospitals in Europe 1000–2000: People, Landscapes, Symbols, with P. Horden and A. Pastore (Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, 2006; and Plague and the City, with L. Engleman and C. Lynteris (Routledge, 2018). He is at present completing a book on plague in early modern Florence to be published by Yale University Press in 2019.

15 October

Public Lecture co-presented with the Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions

Professor Lyndal Roper (Oxford University)

Luther and the Jews

Martin Luther’s attitude to Jews forms one of the most disturbing aspects of his legacy as a Protestant reformer. This lecture by one of the world’s leading historians of Martin Luther will consider how and why Luther’s attitudes to Jews changed across his lifetime and assess the impact of his views. The lecture will range from Luther’s early, evangelically-oriented “That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew” (1523) to the unrelentingly aggressive polemic of “On the Jews and their Lies” (1543), which appeared close to the end of his life.

Professor Lyndal Roper is Regius Professor of History, Oriel College, University of Oxford and one of the world’s most renowned historians of early modern times. She is the first woman and the first Australian to hold the Regius Chair and in 2016 she received the prestigious Gerda Henkel prize for her ‘trailblazing’ work on social, gender and psychological history in the age of the Reformation. Her latest book, Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet (2016), is the first historical biography of Luther to be published in English for many decades. She is now writing a history of the German Peasants’ War (1524-5), the greatest uprising in western Europe before the French Revolution. Professor Roper is a Fellow of the British Academy, the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Brandenburg Akademie der Wissenschaften; she is also a member of the International Advisory Board of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.

This lecture is jointly presented by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions and the Early Modern Circle