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Dr Lorenzo Caravaggi

Lecturer in Medieval History (1100-1500)

Bowland College



Research Interests

I am a historian of Italian and European culture, law, politics, and society in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, a period of unprecedented growth and development, but also of rising inequality and pluralism. 

My interdisciplinary research looks at how late-medieval people thought about and represented their society and its problems, and at how they sought to overcome those challenges in order to create a better world.

I explored one aspect of this phenomenon in my doctoral thesis, which is now being transformed into a monograph. This investigates the ways in which the violent divisions of late-medieval Italian cities could be kept under control and even healed. Through the analysis of thousands of judicial records as well as art works, chronicles, sermons, and political treatises, I push back against the long-established notion that the Italian cities were unable to cope with internal pluralism. On the contrary, I argue that peacekeeping was made possible by citizen participation and interoscietal collaboration.

My second project, which will eventually result in the publication of my second monograph, builds on my work with judicial records, and sits at the boundary between social and political history, law, and literature. its focus is on an extraordinary and unedited body of fourteenth-century criminal sentences which in subject and style bear uncanny similarities to the short stories of the late-medieval novella tradition, and which I have defined as 'judicial novellas'. My research sheds light on the intellectual cross-pollination between different forms of writing in an age of great legal development and artistic experimentation; most importantly, it argues that record-keeping was not merely a product of growing bureaucracy, but also a tool which, like art and literature, allowed civic intellectuals to question problematic aspects of their society: the reliability of justice, the dangers of rhetoric, and the relationship between interpersonal trust and the norms of civil society.

In the academic year 2023-2024 I will be teaching the Special Subject HIST316 (From Rebellion to Revolution: The War for the Throne, 1199-1265) and the MA module HIST444 (Warfare in the Medieval World, 1100-1500). In addition I will also teach classes in HIST100 (From the Medieval to the Modern: History and Historians), HIST250 (Making History: Contexts, Sources and Publics), and HIST443 (Warfare in History).

Over the next years I will be developing modules on the Italian city-states, the early Italian Renaissance, the urban world of medieval Europe, and on doing history through legal and judicial records.

I am happy to supervise undergraduate and MA students interested in any aspect of late-medieval cultural, legal, political, and social history.

My office hours are: Mondays and Wednesdays 15.00-17.00 (term time). Please email me first to check that I am able to receive you.


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