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Renaissance Migropolis: Mobility, Migration and the Politics of Reception in Venice (ca. 1450-1650)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MIGROPOLIS (Renaissance Migropolis: Mobility, Migration and the Politics of Reception in Venice (ca. 1450-1650))

Reporting period: 2016-10-01 to 2018-09-30

The Marie Skłowdowska-Curie project MIGROPOLIS aimed to shed new light on the historical impact of migration and mobility on European cities and their inhabitants as well as providing fresh insights into the experiences of migrants themselves. It did this by focusing on the case study of Renaissance Venice, one of the most dynamic and cosmopolitan cities in European history, and one whose long experience of grappling with the challenges and benefits of migration gives it unique heuristic value.
The project’s principal research objectives were achieved with only minor deviations, and communicated in various tangible ways both to specialist and wider audiences. A primary objective was to trace the development of the Venetian government’s nascent migration “policy” between 1450-1650; a crucial period when the city’s population, as well as its economic, political and cultural power reached their zenith, but also a time when war, food shortages, epidemic disease and religious schism made the movement of people an acutely controversial issue. Beyond this, the project sought to assess the impact of mobility at street level, on the evolution of the urban fabric, the lives of settled residents and of new arrivals. In particular, the researcher investigated the “infrastructure of hospitality” that crystallized in this period to host migrants and visitors who disembarked in the city. She showed how inns and lodging houses especially functioned as crucial points of orientation into urban life and important places of encounter between newcomers, local inhabitants and authorities.
The project also entailed various training objectives designed to establish the researcher as a leading scholar in the history of mobility in Europe, which were successfully completed. In particular, the researcher enhanced her capacity to communicate her research to a broad audience and inform contemporary debates about migration with a valuable historical perspective, which she achieved also thanks to the accomplishment of several planned Public Engagement Activities.
During the period of the project, the Fellow conducted extensive research in Venice’s state and patriarchal archives and libraries in order to fulfil the various research objectives. She began to disseminate this research to a broad audience via a number of academic and non-academic publications, which will continue to appear over the coming years. These include a peer-reviewed article already published in the prestigious journal Urban History (and awarded the annual Dyos prize for the best article submitted to the journal) and another article shortly to be submitted to the Journal of Early Modern History as part of a special issue on the theme “Cities in Motion: Mobility and Urban Space in Early Modern Europe”, co-edited by the researcher. A further significant output of the project will be the monograph The Floating World: Migration, Mobility and Hospitality in Renaissance Venice, to be completed and submitted to Oxford University Press by 2020. In addition, the researcher published online a digital map (“Welcome to Venice: Arriving in the Renaissance City”), to provide scholars, students and interested (virtual) travellers with a novel perspective on the experience of navigating the Renaissance city as a migrant or traveller.
In addition to these outputs, the findings of the project were also publicized via numerous presentations by the researcher at conferences and workshops in Italy, the US, the UK and Croatia and a keynote address at Oxford University. The researcher also organized a number of events that explored the fundamental importance of mobility and migration in European Renaissance history. These included a series of conference panels at the Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting in Chicago in 2017, and a major conference (The Renaissance on the Road: Mobility and Change in Europe, 1450-1650) in Florence in 2018, which featured keynote addresses from leading lights in the field, Sanjay Subrahmanyan (UCLA) and Nicholas Terpstra (Toronto). As well as allowing her to present her project results within a broader network of international scholars, these events provided the material for a collection of essays that the researcher will co-edit on The Mechanics of Mobility in the Early Modern World. This book, as well as the aforementioned special issue of the Journal of Early Modern History, will be among the first works to seriously consider the significance of mobility in the broader history of pre-modern Europe.
The project was particularly innovative in its examination of the street-level impact of intensive mobility, by focusing on the spaces in which new arrivals first set foot. These key entry-points are uniquely important for understanding the motives, practices and consequences of mobility as they 1) helped migrants and travellers to orient themselves in their new environment; 2) provided points of encounter between new arrivals and the local community; and 3) increasingly served as foci of the authorities’ developing surveillance systems of mobile people, as when the Venetian government forced innkeepers to hand in registers of guests. This approach was also novel in bringing into focus for the first time the large floating population of visitors and temporary migrants who nonetheless had a notable impact on the urban society, economy and culture. The project has thus helped to move the state-of-the-art beyond the study of individual ‘ethnic’ communities who came to settle and to bring to light the much larger spectrum of mobilities that animated pre-modern cities.
The project will thus have a significant impact both on the field of early modern history and on the longer history of migration more generally. The afore-mentioned co-edited special issue and collection of essays, to be published in 2020-21, will investigate the impact and importance of mobility in early modern European history, and particularly in the history of European cities. A workshop organized by the researcher and held at the host institution in 2017 (Arrival Cities. Urban Spaces of Mobility in Europe, Past and Present) brought historians into dialogue with scholars of contemporary migration and others involved in relevant policy initiatives, including members of the UNESCO-chair research team in the ‘Social and Spatial Integration of Migrants in European Cities’ from the IUAV University of Architecture in Venice. This meeting provided a valuable historical perspective on some of today’s most urgent issues, as did a widely-read article published by the researcher on The Conversation website (“Venice had its own ‘Airbnb problem’ during the Renaissance – here’s how it coped”), republished in multiple locations and languages.
Additionally, the Fellowship has had a major impact on the researcher’s career, by providing exceptional training and development opportunities that have helped to position her as a prominent voice in her field. The host institution gave her access to a wide network of scholars in different disciplines working on migration from contemporary and historical perspectives, with whom she interacted and exchanged ideas. She also developed her experience in teaching postgraduates by delivering seminars to doctoral students and providing informal mentoring on their dissertations.
Jost Amman, Procession of the Doge in Piazza San Marco, mid C16th