Francesco BenignoBeyond the Courts: Rethinking Statehood and Governance in Early Modern Europe

Traditionally scholars approached early modern state formation by focusing on the growth of government apparatus (bureaucracy) and on the increasing centralization of administration during the eighteenth century. The fifteenth through seventeenth centuries were treated as a preparatory phase of the modern state. Beginning with the 1980s, this approach came to be seen as inherently anachronistic in its tendency always to look for precedents for what had followed. There were calls therefore to study the past as a different world, distinct and distant. When it came to early modern statehood emphasis was increasingly placed on studying the court as a political universe which was, apart from its ceremonial and symbolic aspects, peopled by factions and networks of patronage. Today, after more than 30 years of study, this approach in turn seems to have exhausted its heuristic capacity, leaving fundamental questions unanswered. Especially with regard to inner changes in government systems and the interconnected transformation of the relevant social groups,  it is now clear that we must go beyond the court itself. We must also treat the relations between the periphery and the various centers of political, economic, religious, military and judicial governance. We must also conceive of power far more broadly, including  both normative systems and the political rhetoric they used. Norms and rhetoric are not separate systems. The early modern state was composed of multiple social worlds each possessed of a measure of autonomy. As we seek to reconstruct these, we must take note the friction and interaction between discursive registers and the social worlds that they articulate.

Francesco Benigno is Professor of Early Modern History at the Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa. He has worked on Early Modern European politics, on Western Mediterranean social and economic history, on the methodology of the historical research, on the process of construction of social groups and, more recently, on the origins of Italian organized crime and the relationship between crime, public imaginary and politics.


Francesca BregoliBeyond Jewish “Autonomy”: State Reforms and Political Negotiations in Habsburg Italy 

In his classic Storia degli ebrei in Italia(1963), Attilio Milano characterized the highly organized Jewish communities of Italy as “extra-territorial institutions.” While this depiction is no longer tenable, the myth of Jewish autonomy is still part of the popular narrative about the relationship between Italian Jews and the early modern state. The reality was certainly more complex. Although corporate existence was legally forbidden to Jews, Jewish communities de facto functioned like recognized corporate bodies within the state, with special privileges and distinctive restrictions. Such a model formed part of the state articulation during the early modern period and was not limited to Jews. As a result, Jewish communal and juridical life was characterized by engrained tensions and constant negotiations between Jewish governing bodies, municipal authorities, and centralizing state organs. What can we learn about the place and maneuvering space of Jews within early modern Italian states – about fictions and realities of Jewish autonomy – if we focus on such tensions and negotiations as heuristically productive historiographical tools? The speaker will suggest that escalating tensions during the period of state-driven reforms that began in the 1730s deserve particular attention as a window into the ambiguous place of Jews in the eighteenth-century Italian states. Based on a survey of recent historiography, enriched by original archival research, this paper will focus on Habsburg Italy, with a comparison of significant examples of negotiations from Lombardy, Tuscany, and the Trieste area. On the one hand, it will be shown that Jewish leaders frequently hoped to take advantage of state-driven reforms to ameliorate the position of Jewish subjects in light of recent legislative changes – yet often to no avail, testing first hand the ambivalence of the reformist processes. On the other hand, it will also be considered how state bureaucrats and massariat times proved unable to move beyond Old Regime categories, behaviors, and privileges that stemmed from an understanding of the Jews as a “corporate nation” within the body of the state. Supplications submitted by Jewish massariand correspondence exchanged between local and state governments will be especially useful to shed light on the limits and understandings of Jewish autonomy, as well as on the extent to which Jews were in fact integrated (and at times embroiled) in municipal and state politics.

Francesca Bregoli is Associate Professor of History and Joseph and Oro Halegua Chair in Greek and Sephardic Jewish Studies at Queens College and The Graduate Center, The City University of New York. She is the author of Mediterranean Enlightenment: Livornese Jews, Tuscan Culture, and Eighteenth-Century Reform(2014).


Flora CassenJews in Spanish Milan: Between Local and Imperial State 

As far back as the high Middle Ages, the Jews’ unique status in Western Christendom—as the only religious minority simultaneously subjected to and protected by the Church—meant that Jews entertained a special, albeit ambivalent, relationship with the ruling authorities. However, as state power was centralized and consolidated during early modern times, the Jews faced a new challenge: how to find a political and social role in a world of modernizing states and globalizing empires. This quandary was felt acutely in Spanish Milan in the 16thcentury. Through the fifteenth century, the Duchy of Milan, ruled successively by the Visconti and then the Sforza family, became one of the largest and most centralized states of the Italian renaissance. The Jews, who were allowed to live in the Duchy but not in its capital of Milan, developed a solid relation with the ruling families. This relation was periodically disrupted by clerics and preachers trying to impose Church rulings restricting Jewish life, and by local authorities intent on controlling the Jews living on their lands. Often, the Jews were merely a pawn in broader conflicts between center and periphery. The relation between Jews and the state took a brand-new turn when Philip II of Spain became Duke of Milan in 1540 and the Duchy was integrated into the Spanish Habsburg empire. Not only did the Jews then have to contend with yet another layer of government, and one that was far away from Milan, but Spain’s empire was characterized by constant competition between different centers of power at the local, regional, and transnational or imperial levels. Moreover, Spain was the state which had expelled the Jews from its territory half a century earlier and continued to refuse to tolerate the Jews in its growing empire. Based on a large corpus of material that I found in the archives of Milan, my presentation will show that despite this fraught political situation, the Milanese Jewish diaspora learned to function as an imperial presence. Jews became adept at using the great distance between center and periphery, as well as multiple overlapping levels of power, to their advantage. Meanwhile, imperial governments used the Jews as test cases to develop techniques to manage and control the many different ethnicities and minorities who lived on their territories. Such techniques became central to the ways European imperial governments would continue to function later on. Consequently, Jewish history in the early modern era is not only part of the history of the state, it is also part of the history of empires.

Flora Cassen is associate Professor of History and Van der Horst Fellow in Jewish History and Culture at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has studied the discriminatory marks that the Jews were compelled to wear in 15- and 16-century Italy while, at the moment, she is working on Italian Jews who were spies for the king of Spain. Her more recent work examines how early modern intelligence networks functioned and probes questions of Jewish identity in a time of uprootedness and competing loyalties.


Serena Di NepiJews, State and Politics: The Trial against Bernardino Campello in the aftermath of the Cum nimis absurdum (Rome and Spoleto, 1562)

On May 12, 1562, in Rome, Bernardino Campello was tried for “business concerning the Jews”. Since 1555, Campello had been the Apostolic Commissioner in charge for enforcing the Cum nimis absurdum bull in Campagna and in Umbria. According to a contemporary Hebrew chronicle (now translated by Martina Mampieri) he was a “violent” executor of the pope’s orders especially in Spoleto, where he is said to have confiscated all the Jews’ assets and imprisoned several people. The 300-page long Roman trial confirms these events; casts new light on the Jews, Christians and neophytes who were involved in the affair; and reveals something so far unknown for what concerns its conclusion. After the death of Paul IV and the bull Dudum Felicis (issued on February 27, 1562), Jewish life in the Papal States changed once again. As the Jews were still in the ghettoes but under softened rules, Campello’s actions were carefully sifted through and he was forced to motivate every gesture. On the basis of this new source, the paper aims at investigating the birth of the ghettoes from multiple perspectives. As the trial against Bernardino shows, the fate of the Jews was part of the Early Modern State-building process. The events in Spoleto are revealing of the way Central institutions tried to exercise controls on the periphery and to impose the same rules for everyone, sometimes failing due to the clash with local peculiarities. In the  aftermath of Cum nimis absurdum, the lives of Bernardino and of his Jewish and Christian counterparts are marked by loans, confiscation of assets and books, judicial auctions, imprisonments, investigations; as such they disclose a fil rouge of political relationship and tensions that has yet to be investigated.

Serena Di Nepi is Associate Professor of Early Modern History at the Sapienza-University of Rome. Her field of research is the history of Rome and the Mediterranean, with special attention to the Jews as cross-culturalbrokers.


Carlotta Ferrara degli UbertiNegotiating Power, Autonomy and Integration in late-XVIII and early-XIX century Leghorn

This paper will analyze the ways in which the Jews of Leghorn negotiated with political authorities, with a focus on how the strategies, language and self-fashioning terms/images changed between the Napoleonic era and 1848.  This phase has often been treated by modern historians as transitional – from an early-modern, pre-unitarian setting to a full-fledged entrance into political modernity through the Risorgimento and the national-patriotic framework. A perspective that obscures the multi-faceted political, social, and cultural challenges of these decades and can support a teleological narrative leading to the national unification and the emancipation.  The very peculiar case of Leghorn has attracted many Italian and non-Italian scholars working on the XVII and XVIII centuries, and to mention only one very recent publication it features prominently in a volume the speaker co-edited on Italian Jewish Networks (Bregoli, Ferrara degli Uberti, Schwarz 2018), but overall the turn of the century and the first half of the XIX century have been largely neglected by scholars. The speaker’s own work on the transition from privileges to emancipation (Ferrara degli Uberti 2007) needs to be reassessed, also in light of David Sorkin’s new reading of the emancipation as an interpretive category and as a process (forthcoming, 2019). Working mainly on archival sources (Archives of the Jewish community, State Archives of Livorno and Florence) the speaker will reflect on the evolving relationship between the Jewish community and the State in its successive incarnations, the changing structure of the community, and the prospect of/debate on full legal emancipation, deconstructing the different ideas of equality/citizenship that emerge. Focusing in particular on the analysis of the petitions addressed by the community to the central (or local) government, the paper will focus on an interrelated set of questions: how are the objects of the negotiation – e.g. the judicial autonomy or the ballottazione – and the structure, language and practices of negotiation inter-related? how does the self-fashioning of the community change depending on the political context? what are the characteristics and the implications of the resulting narratives?

Carlotta Ferrara degli Uberti is Lecturer in Italian Studies at the University College London. She teaches Italian and European XIX-XX century history in the School of European Languages, Cultures and Society. Among her current Jewish history projects: the relationship between civil and religious law in Liberal Italy with a special focus on the conflict between Jewish and civil law on marriage and divorce; the circulation of literary texts in European Jewish periodicals; the Jewish community of Leghorn.


Davide LiberatoscioliThe Idea of universitas Judaeorum as an Instrument for the Construction of Centralizing States: Rome and the Papal State between the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period 

Early Modern Italian States used to refer to the entire Jewish population in their countries as a universitas Judaeorum. This enabled the Christian powers to consider the Jews in their territories as a homogenous legal unit and to legislate on them without further juridical distinctions. The paper will deal with the first uses of this term in the Papal State between the 14thand 15thcentury. It will focus on the seven main points: 1) Even though in Europe and in Southern Italy the concept of universitas Judaeorumwas already largely diffused in the 13thcentury, there is no mention of it in Central and Northern Italy until the second half of the 14thcentury. Before this time, communal and Papal documents used to consider the Central Italian Jews as individuals and not as a part of a community. 2) The concept universitas Judaeorum – unknown to the communal world – seems to be characteristic of centralising States, like medieval France or the Hohenstaufen Kingdom in Sicily and Southern Italy. It served as a juridical instrument for monarchies to homogenise the Jewish population and to better tax it. On the contrary, the communal juridical and fiscal system was based on singular relationships between the communal institutions and the individuals. 3) The first documented uses of this term referring to a Central or Northern Italian Jewish community was a cultural borrowing from the Southern Italian monarchy. 4) Its use became more significant in the historical phase, when stronger centralising institutions replaced the communes and the Roman curiastarted the consolidation process of the political structure in the Papal State, especially at the beginning of the 15thcentury, during the (re)-organisation of the Papal State under Boniface IX after the Avignon-Papacy. 5) The universitas Judaeorumconcept in the documents from the papacy of Boniface IX aimed to create a higher fiscal “visibility” of the Jewish presence and therefore a better taxation. 6) At the same time, the “fiscal visibility” required a “physical visibility”. The requirement for a distinctive mark for the Jewish population and the use of the term universitas Judaeorumby the Christian Italian powers were connected to each other. They arose and spread simultaneously in Central and Northern Italy. 7) As an instrument that enabled the centralising power to homogenise a part of the population and to make the taxation more efficient, the universitas Judaeorumconcept has to be understood as a feature of the Early Modern Papal State.

Davide Liberatoscioli is a PhD candidate at Potsdam University. His doctoral thesis concerns “Jews without Popes. Political relationships between Jewish merchants and Christian powers during the Avignon Papacy”.


Raffaele PitellaThe Status animarum as an Instrument of Control over Fiscal Matters and Religious Minorities in the Ecclesiastical State 

The paper will focus on the use made of the Status animarum by the Ecclesiastical State which differed from what was originally prescribed in the Rituale Romanorum of 1614. During the 18th century such documents became an instrument generally used by government institutions for fiscal control and to verify the presence of religious minorities within the various communities of the State.

Raffaele Pitella works at the State Archive of Rome where he also directs the Scuola di Archivistica, Paleografia e Diplomatica. His main areas of expertise are Italian notaries, the history of Italian archives, and and Italian Jews.


Asher Salah, Restrictive Tolerance: Reception of Jews and Muslims in Livorno (1591-1614)

Under the Livornina, the Leghorn constitution published 30 July 1591 by Grand Duke Fernando I de’ Medici, merchants of all nations were invited to establish themselves at Leghorn and Pisa. Although the decree was designed to attract Jews in general and New Christians in particular, assuring them of protection against any form of persecution even if they returned to practicing the religion of their ancestors, it should still not forgotten that the invitation was also directed to “Turks, Moors, and Persians.” However, while the Jewish community in the port city thrived under the privileges granted by the Livornina, the Grand Duke’s reiterated attempts to bring moriscos settlers into Tuscany met with a total failure. Is the Livornina the first example in European history of recognition for the legitimacy of religious diversity in Christian Europe? The speaker does not believe so. In the new city of Leghorn, the Medici never intended to establish an entirely anachronistic model of civil tolerance, an example of that “American humanity” of which Ferdinand Braudel speaks with reference to the Tyrrhenian port. The policy of Tuscan authorities concerning the reception of non-Catholic religious minorities in Livorno, rather than demonstrating the existence of a link between mercantilism and the principle of tolerance, shows on the contrary the persistence of a model of coexistence between different communities based on ad hoc medieval-type compromises, driven by considerations ofreal-politik. The paper will therefore address the different treatment reserved to these two groups of persecuted Iberian religious minorities by making use of the concept of reason of state, as developed by Giovanni Botero. In particular in book five of The Reason of State, Botero deals with the course of action a Christian prince should take who has heretical or infidel subjects, giving instructions on how to solve conflicts that may arise between the opportunity of maintaining the religious unity of the Christian state, and the importance to meet the State’s needs to augment its wealth. The year 1614 coincides with the definitive abandonment of the Moriscos settlement project and the concession to the Jews of the right to “ballottazione,” that is, the Grand Duke’s recognition of local Jewish authorities’ power to accept or reject new members. Far from being a contradictory policy in terms of religious tolerance, the paper will argue that from this moment on the Medicis will try with all the means at their disposal to put an end to religious ambiguity among their subjects and control religious diversity within stricter borders than in the past, through ordinances inspired to what the speaker would call a “restrictive tolerance.”

Asher Salah is Associate Professor at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has been a fellow at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies in 2011-2012 and in 2014-2015, and at the Maimonides Center for Advanced Studies in Jewish Scepticism in 2016-2017. His scholarship deals with Jewish literature in Early Modern Italy, Sephardi studies and Jewish cinema in the Mediterranean area.


Benjamin RavidJewish Moneylenders and Merchants in Venice: Necessary for the Venetian Government or Only Useful?

Much has been written about the role of Jews as moneylenders, often more specifically as pawnbrokers, and as international maritime traders in medieval and early modern Europe. My presentation will focus on the role that the Jews played in the economy of the Venetian republic and address the issue of whether that role was a matter of necessity or rather of utility for the Venetian government. It will also examine the adjustments that it made in order for Jews to assume the responsibilities that it wished them to fulfill.

Benjamin Ravid is Professor Emeritus of Jewish History at Brandeis University in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies which he chaired from 1989-1992. He is the author of Economics and Toleration in Seventeenth Century Venice: The Background and Context of the Discorso of Simone Luzzatto (1978), and over fifty articles on various aspects of the Venetian Jewish experience, nine of which were reprinted in Studies on the Jews of Venice, 1382-1797(2003). He also co-edited, with Robert C. Davis, The Jews of Early Modern Venice(2001) and is currently completing a history of the Jews of the Venetian Republic.


Pierre SavyCows, Cogs, Actors? Jews in the Political Processes of the Duchy of Milan (15th century)

Never has the role of Jews in the state-building processes of the duchy of Milan under the rule of the Visconti and the Sforza been adequately considered. The paper will address that question from the acceptance and arrival of the first Jews in the dominio (1387) to the fall of the Duchy to the French in 1499. The traditional approach to the Jewish contribution to these state building projects is encapsulated in the famous phrase by Cecil Roth, who described the Jews of England as “the King’s milch cow” for their contribution to the royal treasury. And their tax contributions were certainly crucial to the Duchy of Milan as well. But that should not mislead us to focus only on their passive role in state building processes, since Jews could also serve as “cogs” in the increasingly complex machinery of the state. For instance, the sources encourage us to consider Jewish moneylending as an activity, however stigmatized and criticized, as a sort of public service seen as virtuous by the dukes and defended by ducal power when necessary. The same can be said of the judicial role of Jews of the Duchy, some of whom were referred to as familiars or even appointed as judges, in a system that gave a large space to “Jewish self-government,” in the words of the classic account of Louis Finkelstein. But Jews, despite (or perhaps because of) their marginal and subaltern position, were also in many ways active makers of their own fate: they had a political agency that allowed them, while being “cows” or “cogs” of the state, to form “a vital component of the Italian mosaic” (I quote the call for paper of the conference), as “a fragment of Italian history” (Giacomo Todeschini). Those three layers of contribution to the state building will be studied with a special attention paid to specific figures (such as Elia Beer or Yosef Kolon) or specific moments (such as the spectacular public demonstrations of Jews against other political actors of the dominio in the 1460s) that allow a global reassessment of their role in the political processes of the Duchy of Milan during the 15th century.

Pierre Savy is directeur des études (section Moyen Âge) at the École française de Rome. His research focuses on the social and political history of Northern Italy in the late Middle Ages, and on Jewish and Christian identities in the medieval and modern Western world.


Renata SegrePrelude to the ghetto. Did Venice favour the “Italian way”?

The ghetto was created in Venice in the turmoil of the war against the Habsburg, at a time when the support of the French allies was shrinking and a turn of Pope Leo X to a pro Venetian attitude seemed most likely. The Serenissima was struggling to recover from the Imperial army the lands she had lost in the eight years of a war that had entrained unprecedented hardship; its heaviest costs hit the Treasury, and, not least, the people of the Terraferma. Ravage, plunder, murder, with their ensuing outcome of  famine and migration, were widespread; only the capital managed to be safe, a shelter sought by all those who could reach Venice and be allowed a housing and an unscathed living in the city, among them the Jews. From Mestre, Padua and Treviso the pawn bankers settled in the capital and enjoyed this opportunity to overcome the long standing prohibition to take dwelling on the Lagoon. Venice didn’t accept this situation wholeheartedly, but had other more urgent questions to cope with, in her mind.  Since the very beginning of the century, the government had favoured the creation of an official Jewish community (Università), for financial and regulatory reasons; its recognized leaders became a stable presence in Venice time before the defeat at Agnadello (May 14, 1509) provided all the major Jewish families with adequate ground for being permitted to bring their offspring and riches to the only place in the Republic worth living in. Those who had sided with the Empire or were facing bad economic conditions, had already gone abroad. The ghetto, established by law on March 26, 1516, came as a surprise to the Jews, and for a short time was even deemed a temporary mesure, to be easily cancelled by means of money. It placed a small group of Jewish families in a restricted impoverished area, far from the political and business centre, without granting them any promise of a long term residence. Yet, the removal of the previous Christian inhabitants and the strict rules imposed on the incoming dwellers allowed them a certain optimism, soon justified by the events. The ghetto was to last for over three centuries. No one was asked to choose between migration and baptism, as happened elsewhere in Italy; simply, in the course of a few decades, they were wiped out of most of the Terraferma, besides a couple of greater communities, a few small places and fiefs.


Vincenzo SelleriIudeca: Jewish Communities and Jewish Space in Fifteenth Century Apulia 

In 15th-century Kingdom of Naples, iudeca was a term that in the documents produced both by the royal and municipal officers indicated either the Jewish community, or the space the community inhabited. Apart from studies that focus more on the topography of Neapolitan cities, southern iudece, both intended as administrative and social units, and as urban space have somehow never been the subject of a systematic study. This paper intends to start filling the void by 1. mapping Jewish settlements in the whole kingdom of Naples; 2. discussing the location of Jewish quarters within some of the biggest cities of the kingdom; 3. analyzing the use Jews made of public space in light of royal and municipal legislation. The heterogeneous density of Jewish settlements in each administrative province, the wild demographic differences existing between cities, the similarities between the structure of the governing bodies of the Jewish and Christians communities suggest that iudece were not spaces meant for the segregation of Jews. While in rare instances cities did try to be “freed of Jews” by denying Jews the right of residence, Jews had relative freedom of movement within the kingdom. This freedom was granted and protected by royal privilege. Jewry law, though, cannot be consider the only factor governing the pattern of Jewish settlements and the modes of interaction with the local administrations. If anything, royal charters were the expression of a political culture firmly rooted in the territory. This paper focuses on the pull-push processes that affected the geography and topography of Jewish settlements in the Kingdom of Naples. It argues that Jewish life was shaped synergistically by both royal and municipal administrations: as royal jurisdiction expanded, Jewish municipal rights (and “Jewish space”) contracted as cities reacted to royal interreference in local matters.

Vincenzo Selleri’s work focuses on the legal status of minorities in the Aragonese kingdom of Naples. He teaches at York College – City University of New York, Farmingdale – State University of New York, and Adelphi University.


Stefanie B. SiegmundForced in, Pushed out: The Medici State, the Ghetto Community, and the Control of Walls and Boundaries

In early modern history as it is now being written, the mobility of Jews and New Christians and their boundary-crossing lives plays a leading role.  This scholarship has posed a healthy challenge to our picture of the consolidation of power in early modern states, for these networks were maintained in that mobility, with the movement of people, wealth, knowledge, books and all manner of social and material culture across still-unmarked state boundaries, and they may have strengthened transregional institutions and economies more than those of states.  The opposite could also be argued: namely, that transregional activity bolstered the formation of stronger, well-boundaried, and administratively effective states because encounters with the foreign contributed to the construction of more specifically national cultures and identities. But it must be emphasized that the project of defining borders (in all ways) was also important to early modern states working with more stable Jewish populations who were not necessarily “on the move”.  The paper will deal with the Italian ghettos, where matters related to mobility, residence, and boundaries were of paramount importance to the state. The ghetto, by its very design and location in the city of Florence makes the topic of boundaries and borders central. The speaker has previously described the Florentine ghetto as not only a place but a new, spatialized tool that the Medici State put to good use administratively, religiously, politically, and for the purpose of profit and urban renewal. Continuing now to think about the ghetto as a physical and social space, this paper explores the maintenance of the boundaries of the Jewish community in the context of state-building.  Just as the Medici decision to ghettoize the Jews must be understood in the context of development of a spatial turn in the effort to define the reach of the statehood, so too, the spaker will argue in this paper, the power expressed by the Jewish governors in the ghetto often had a spatial dimension, and their interest in controlling their own boundaries and physical spaces, in the service of their community, both reflects and supports the development of the state by whom they were confined and controlled. The Medici government was able to maintain control of the ghetto in part by allowing frequent and controlled movement through its gates.  The Jewish governing body in the ghetto took action to reproduce that use of space as a tool for the maintenance and definition of their own communal boundaries, from the quotidian regulation of passageways and public spaces to the extraordinary act of expulsion. By asserting control over their own community, fixed in its place, they made themselves the guardians of the integrity of the very wall that constricted them. They at once confirmed the importance of the state-designed and enforced boundary that set limits on their own lives, and asserting ownership of that very same spatial defining framework for their community.  When the Jewish governors within the ghetto drew on the state to support their own authority as governors, they participated in, used, and reproduced the state’s structures, tools, categories, and hierarchies, including gender, class, religion, and age.  As they worked to confirm their legitimacy, they necessarily deepened the legitimacy and authority of the state in which they lived.

Stefanie B. Siegmund is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Jewish Gender and Women’s Studies program at Jewish Theological Seminary. She is the first to hold the Women’s League Chair in Jewish Gender and Women’s Studies at the same Institution.A specialist in the history of the Jewish family and the Jews of the Early Modern Italian states, her current research focuses on the subject of conversion of Jews to Catholicism in 16th-century Italy. Her work engages questions concerning gender and its role in creating Jewish custom, culture, and law, as well as the history and status of Jewish women.


Giacomo TodeschiniChristian Financial Government and Jewish Political Culture in Italy (15th-17th Centuries): A Dialectic of Modernity

The contradictory and crucial encounter between Christian Italian States utilizing and theorizing finance as a political instrument, and the Jewish Italian political representations of Jewish-Christian society as a complex relational system only partially representable in economic terms, is a key moment in the building of European modernity. The ghettoization of the Italian Jews actually coincided with the growing of a dialogue/conflict between Christian economic-political rationality and Jewish political thinking.

Giacomo Todeschini, after his studies at the University of Bologna, was Professor of Medieval history at the University of Trieste since 1979. His studies focused on the development of Medieval economic theory and languages, Christian doctrine of infamy and exclusion from citizenship and market games, and the political role of Jews inside of the Christian medieval-modern world.


Mafalda ToniazziAt the Beginning of the Modern Era: The Jews and the Magistrates Dedicated to them in the Cities of Central and Northern Italy. The Case of Florence (15thcentury)

Investigating the Jewish presence in Italy at the dawn of the Modern era means, first of all, to take into account the inclusion of the Israelites in the urban and extra-urban contexts. In view of a “theory” that indicates them as subjects to the Emperor or the Holy See, depending on the areas of settlement, we are faced with a “praxis” that shows how the Jews were, in fact, subordinate to different local authorities. The latter, by virtue of the numerical increase and the need to regulate their life and activity, did not hesitate in the larger city to create or “readjust” the appropriate Magistrates: the relations between the Israelites and these Magistracies are really interesting for the scholars. Starting from a brief overview of the general framework, the paper will focus on Florence, a city which, since the second half of the 15th century, has become an economic and cultural capital of great importance also for Italian Judaism. Through the different cases found in the registers of the Otto di Guardia e Balia, the Judiciary dedicated to the Jews, the paper will investigate the double aspect of control and protection that it exercised on the Jewish group. Moreover, it will also try to shed some light on the notion that the Jews had such protection, which seems to be the basis of their self-perception as a group. This emerges clearly wither the triangular relations between local Jews, foreign Jews (for example Spanish ones) and the Ottos is considered. Last but not least, the paper will focus on the relationship between public authorities and Jews from the point of view of the bargaining power that the economic and social importance of the loan gave to them, giving a new image of the Israelites, different from that of an always passive minority, subject to the wishes of others.

Mafaldo Toniazzi is Research Fellow in Medieval History at the University of Pisa. Since 2013 she works on the project Italia Judaica directed by Profossor Shlomo Simonsohn, University of Tel-Aviv. She is a member of Interdepartmental Centre for Jewish Studies “Michele Luzzati”,University of Pisa, and a fellow of the Associazione Italiana per lo Studio del Giudaismo.


Alessandra Veronese, From mid-14thto early 16thCenturies: The Jews of the Duchy of Urbino as an Active Presence in the Building of the State

The Jewish presence in Italy can and must be studied taking into account not only the place where a Jewish group was settled, but also considering the interrelations between the various Jewish groups, more or less numerous.  The inclusion of Jews in the Renaissance cities and in statual and over-statual contexts must be taken into account. If in theory the Jews were subject to supra-state authority (Emperor, Pope), in practice almost always they have to interface with a certain number of local magistrature. The Counts and then Dukes of Urbino – formally subject to the popes as their vicars – were in fact able to found a state with its own characteristics, which despite its small size became actively involved in Italian politics of the time.  The Jews – settled in the major cities of the Duchy – represented an active presence within a relatively underdeveloped economy, of which they were often one of the engines. They had frequent contacts with the Montefeltro family; a convert became one of Federico da Montefeltro’s trusted men. Through the extensive surviving documentation it is possible to study the methods of bargaining between Jews and local power; the Jews, in fact, far from being a passive minority, often succeeded in imposing their demands, in a do ut des that was convenient for both parties.

Alessandra Veronese isAssociate Professor of Medieval and Jewish History at the University of Pisa. she has worked on females cloisters in Northern Italy in Early Middle Ages and on families of Jewish bankers, merchants, physicians and travellers between the 14thand the 16thcenturies.


Justine Walden, Sephardic Diaspora, Ottoman Entanglements, and The Medici State

Ferdinand I’s extension of expansive privileges to diasporic Jewish merchants in Livorno in 1591 and 1593 (the ‘Livornina’) stands in seeming contrast to the ghettoizing of Jews in Florence in 1571. What considerations animated these seemingly bifurcated policies? Adducing evidence from letters written by the Medici court from the 1540s through the Livornina, this paper shows how state policies toward Jews were continuously determined by their consideration of nonItalian Jews as a key ‘third term’ in both economic and military relations with the Ottoman empire and that state policies were fundamentally ever-ambivalent.  I show how the affair of the Jewish Ottoman corsair Sinan Ciphut and Piombino alerted the Medici to the power commanded by diasporic Sephardim in Ottoman lands, examine Medici efforts to lure wealthy Portuguese Jews to Pisa, and trace Cosimo’s reliance on Jews, particularly Giacob Nuñez, for military information about Ottoman fleet. Despite the institution of the ghetto in 1571 and Francesco’s initially virulent antiJudaism, Francesco’s attitudes toward Jews grew visibly more welcoming once he formally assumed power and realized Jews were the sine qua non of Tuscan commercial expansion. His brother Ferdinand’s attitudes toward Jews betray a similar, if less overt, ambivalence. While Ferdinand’s extension of religious privileges to Jews in the Livornina of 1593 are at face value a gesture of early modern tolerance, his delay in issuing this decree until the moment that the new fortress at Livorno was complete suggest an abiding background of suspicion: a concern that the strength of Jewish links with the Levant might result in a breach of the defenses of the realm.

Justine Walden is a PhD candidate at Yale University. She studies the intellectual, social, cultural, and religious history of Early Modern Europe, with a particular focus on Italy and the Mediterranean and on the volatile religious and political climate in Laurentian Florence in the 1460s through the 1490s just prior to the rise of Savonarola. Her dissertation focuses on how a particular monastic order, the Vallombrosans, negotiated this climate by positioning themselves as experts in exorcism.


Nadia ZeldesJews, Conversos, and Inquisition in the Italian Spanish Dominions (1503-1541)

The Italian South is often disregarded in the traditional understanding of the Italian Renaissance State which is usually confined to the Italian city states dismissing the southern kingdoms as tyrannies, a prejudice that can be traced to Jacob Burckhardt The Civilization of theRenaissance in Italy. Both Sicily and the Kingdom of Naples were monarchies ruled by Aragonese dynasties, but up to the 1500s they enjoyed either autonomy (in the case of Sicily), or complete independence (in the case of Naples). Political considerations thus played a crucial role in the treatment of Jews and converts. In 1492 the Sicilian parliament protested the expulsion of the Jews, and was later opposed to the Spanish Inquisition. Also in 1492 King Ferrante I of Naples welcomed Spanish and Sicilian exiles, most of them rejected by the Italian city states. Both reactions had political implications in the coming years. In the early sixteenth century, Jewish or converso presence became a political issue in both Kingdoms. In Sicily the Parliament of 1514 protested against Inquisition practices, and during the revolt of 1516-1517 the inquisitor general of Sicily was expelled. At the beginning of the revolt of 1516, the Spanish Viceroy Hugo Moncada claimed that the rebels sought to abolish the Inquisition but that the real instigators were “a great number of marranos”. Towards mid-16thcentury the Spanish Inquisition in Sicily turned its attention to Protestants and other heretics; some of those were descended from the Jewish conversos, and moreover, in certain cases Protestants and conversos were complicit in subversive acts against the inquisition. Heterodoxy, influenced by the Jewish question, is a little studied phenomenon in both early modern Sicily and the Kingdom of Naples. I plan to briefly touch this problem. In 1510, in Naples, the Spanish Viceroy encountered such opposition that he decided to abolish the Inquisition and at the same time to expel both conversos and Jews. Only a small Jewish community remained there till its final expulsion in 1541, but it played an important role in politics and economy of the region. The paper will focus on the presence of Jews, converts and inquisitions in Southern Italy and the consequent political decisions that shaped the character of Spanish dominion in these areas.

Nadia Zeldes is Senior Research Fellow at The Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters, Ben Gurion University in the Negev, Beer Sheva. Her main areas of interest include the intercultural encounters in the Mediterranean world; Jews, Conversos, and Christians; the problem of Jewish converts to Christianity in Sicily (and Southern Italy), and related topics.