Spring 2023

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 [EU/TC/TE/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: Africans in Venice; 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, the Mamluk and Ottoman Empires; convent culture; proto-feminism; 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. 

Spring semester. Professor Sperling.

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Close analysis of historical evidence, which may include written documents, images, music, films, or statistics from the historical period under study. Exploration of scholarly, methodological, and theoretical debates about historical topics. Extensive reading, varying forms of written work, and intensive in-class discussions.

ARHA 219 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 2:30 PM - 3:50 PM CHAP 119
Th 2:30 PM - 3:50 PM CHAP 119


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Spring 2023