Early Modern History I - LM (Historical Anthropology) [Sede VR] (2016/2017)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Federico Barbierato
Federico Barbierato
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Other available courses
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Sem. IA (31.10.16 sosp.lezioni), Sem. IB

Lesson timetable

Learning outcomes

To expand the knowledge of early modern history; to acquire awareness of the difference between societies and cultures chronologically or geographically distant from one another; to familiarize with research tools which history has developed in conjunction with social theory; to develop strategies for the interpretation of relevant and diverse sources; to appraise the tradition of study in this field and discuss its problems.
Prerequisites: Knowledge of the main features of medieval and early modern history.


The course will focus on the theme of death in early modern Europe and in particular on the beliefs about the soul's fate after death. Phenomena that questioned the separation between the world of the living and the world of the dead will therefore be considered, as well as the attempts made by different cultures to "pacify" the two worlds. Historical anthropology will be proposed as the methodology of enquiry, focused on a specific time period between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, though open to the analysis of a longer period.
The first part of the lectures will be dedicated to illustrate the methodology of investigation and the particularities of historical-anthropological approach. Subsequently we will look at some of the main themes of the course (the living and the dead, rituals of death, return of the dead, belief in the afterlife, witchcraft, possession, ghosts, etc.) to finally adopt the structure of a seminar on reading assignments and sources (autobiographies, inquisitorial processes, reports, treatises etc.). The last aspect is the cornerstone of the course, which will have a deep seminar structure. All students, therefore, are encouraged to participate actively and must be available to work during the course on the texts made available. They should also be open to discuss freely their reading impressions with the lecturer and other students. The active participation of attending students will form the fundamental element of assessment and will imply a continuous engagement in individual reading and class discussions. Attendance is therefore only recommended if it can be active.
In other words: in the lectures we will discuss openly and freely (precisely because it is a seminar) of what you will by reading, individually or in groups, during the course, and all students should will feel comfortable in exposing their points of view, obviously within the limits of politeness and mutual respect.

Set texts:
Attending students will prepare an essay on one or some of the documents analysed during the course. The essay will be discussed during the exam along with the two required volumes.
In addition to the two above-mentioned volumes, students who do not attend will need to study two other texts - or groups of texts - to be chosen among the following:

- G. Ferigo, Morbida facta pecus. Scritti di antropologia storica della Carnia, Forum, Udine, 2012
- J.H. Hajes, Posseduti ed esorcisti nel mondo ebraico, Bollati Boringhieri, Milano, 2010;
- E.E. Evans Pritchard, Stregoneria, oracoli e magia tra gli Azande, Raffaello Cortina, Milano, 2002;
- E. Cameron, Enchanted Europe superstition, reason, and religion, 1250-1750, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2010
- D. Freedberg, Il potere delle immagini. Il mondo delle figure: reazioni e emozioni del pubblico, Einaudi, Torino, 2009.
- C. Zika, The Appearance of Witchcraft. Print and Visual Culture in Sixteenth-Century Europe, Routledge, London, 2007
- G. Levi, L’eredità immateriale. La carriera di un esorcista nel Piemonte del Seicento, Einaudi, Torino, 1985;
- C. Walker Bynum, Christian Materiality. An Essay on Religion in Late Medieval Europe, Zone Books, New York, 2011
- E.P. Thompson, Società patrizia, cultura plebea. Otto saggi di antropologia storica sull'Inghilterra del Settecento, Einaudi, Torino, 1981;
- L. Allegra, Identità in bilico. Il ghetto ebraico di Torino nel Settecento, Zamorani, Torino, 1996;
- R.W. Scribner, Per il popolo dei semplici. Propaganda popolare nella Riforma tedesca, Unicopli, Milano 2008.
- G. Erdélyi, A Cloister on Trial: Religious Culture and Everyday Life in Late Medieval Hungary, Routledge, London, 2015
- E. Bever, The Realities of Witchcraft and Popular Magic in Early Modern Europe. Culture, Cognition and Everyday Life, Palgrave-MacMillan, Houndmills, 2008;
- R. Darnton, Il grande massacro dei gatti e altri episodi della storia culturale francese, Adelphi, Milano 1988;
- J. Goody, L’addomesticamento del pensiero selvaggio, FrancoAngeli, Milano 1990 – da leggere assieme a D.F. McKenzie, La sociologia di un testo. Oralità, alfabetismo e stampa all'inizio del XIX secolo, in Id., Il passato è il prologo, edizioni Sylvestre Bonnard, Milano 2002, pp. 43-91;
- M. Sluhovsky, Believe Not Every Spirit: Possession, Mysticism, & Discernment in Early Modern Catholicism, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2007
- K. Crawford, European Sexualities. 1400-1800, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007;

NB. Alternative, personalized reading lists may be agreed upon by contacting the lecturer via email.
Please note:
Teaching methods: lectures and meetings in a seminar.

Assessment methods and criteria

Attending students will be asked to write an essay whose subject will be agreed upon with the lecturer. The exam for attending students will therefore consist in a discussion of the essay and of the two volumes R. Bizzocchi, Guida allo studio della storia moderna, Laterza, Rome-Bari, 2002; P.P. Viazzo, Introduzione all’antropologia storica, Laterza, Rome-Bari, 2000.
For those not attending: reading of R. Bizzocchi, Guida allo studio della storia moderna, Laterza, Rome-Bari, 2002 and of P.P. Viazzo, Introduzione all’antropologia storica, Laterza, Rome-Bari, 2000, and two texts or groups of texts among those listed above. The assessment of their knowledge will be the subject of an oral interview.