Spring 2021

Venice, Perfect City (476-1797)

Listed in: Art and the History of Art, as ARHA-219  |  History, as HIST-219


Jutta G. Sperling (Section 01)


(Offered as HIST 219 [TE/TC/C/P] and ARHA 219) When the Roman Empire imploded in 476, refugees from the Italian mainland settled on a few disconnected islands sheltered from the open Adriatic Sea by a lagoon. Within a few centuries, they created one of the most unlikely, beautiful, and long-lasting European cities ever to have been built. The cooperative spirit with which early medieval Venetians were able to create an urban environment built on seawater found its expression in the political and societal structures they formed to govern their city, republic, and, eventually, empire. In this course, we will discuss key events in the history of this extraordinary city, whose autonomy and self-government lasted until Napoleon invaded it in 1797. Topics include: art, architecture, and urban planning; the formation of an aristocratic but republican constitution; the emergence of civic institutions, poor relief, and neighborhood organizations; the history of the Ghetto and its Sephardic, Ashkenazi, and Italian communities; Venetian sea-trade and the conquest of the Levantine Empire; the Venetian Renaissance; ties with Byzantium, and the Mamluk and Ottoman Empires; convent culture; proto-feminism; and the Enlightenment. These topics will be discussed in the wider context of historical developments in the European and Mediterranean middle ages and early modern period. Two meetings per week. The class will be conducted over zoom, with extensive in-person office hours for on-campus students.

Spring semester. Visiting Professor Sperling.


Attention to Research, Attention to Writing, Online Only, Transnational or World Cultures Taught in English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021