Women’s Work in Rural Italy (1500-1800)

Women’s Work in Rural Italy (1500-1800)

Welcome to the page dedicated to “Women’s Work in Rural Italy (1500-1800)”. Our project aims to provide a better understanding of the historical dynamics surrounding gender and work between the sixteenth and the eighteenth century in rural Italy. By incorporating diverse research methodologies and exploring various geographical contexts across the peninsula, we strive to shed light on the multifaceted nature of female participation in the pre-industrial labour force.


Previous research on proto-industrialization has suggested significant labour market participation by women, particularly in textile industries and predominantly in rural areas (Mendels 1972; Ciriacono 1983). However, female participation in the pre-industrial labour force has generally been considered marginal. As a result, even the contribution of women within the family economy has been regarded as negligible. The extensive body of research related to the theory of the ‘industrious revolution’ (de Vries 1994, 2008), for example, has posited that women’s participation in the wage labour market only became widespread in the second half of the seventeenth century, and primarily in the most developed regions of Europe. But is this truly the case? What was the actual role of women within the labour market and the family economy? Was it as marginal as long assumed? Were women solely engaged in domestic activities outside the market circuit? And were these latter roles genuinely separate from market activities?

This project seeks to address these gaps by analysing specific rural areas of the Italian peninsula between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. By employing new methodologies derived from development economics research and utilizing historical sources that go beyond traditional census and registry data, our project aims to identify the actual extent of female participation in the labour market and the family economy.


Methodologically, this project draws inspiration from the verb-oriented method studies introduced by Ogilvie (2003) and later expanded upon by Ågren (2017), as well as Whittle and Hailwood (2018). At the core of this study lies a broader concept of labour than that employed in classical and neoclassical economics. Our understanding of labour encompasses all activities necessary for household subsistence and reproduction that meet the ‘third-party criterion’ (i.e., any activity that could potentially be performed by someone else in exchange for payment). This is an important premise, since in the pre-industrial era, market and non-market activities were not always clearly distinct and often intertwined temporally and spatially.

Contemporary ethnographic studies can directly interview individuals to gather information about their daily work activities. However, such data collection was not conducted during pre-industrial times. Nevertheless, we possess numerous fragments of information about the work activities carried out by men and women in their daily lives, inadvertently provided by witnesses during criminal trials. By leveraging this qualitative information and transforming it into quantitative data using an established research methodology (Carus and Ogilvie 2009), we will be able to delineate a broad range of work activities performed by women inside and outside the home, but also inside and outside the classical labour market boundaries. This approach will not only enable a more comprehensive description of the labour market structure during the pre-industrial era but also present a fairer and more complete picture of female labour participation.


The research will be conducted through the collection of new data from various regions of the Italian peninsula, each characterized by a unique economic-social environment. Each case study will contribute to the reconstruction of a vivid and comprehensive image of the labour market in pre-industrial Italy. Specifically, the project will investigate the rural areas of the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Lucca, and the Kingdom of Naples.

Coordinated by:

Andrea Caracausi

Post-doc researcher:

Mattia Viale

MoHu Book | 2023 Routledge edited collection Reimagining Mobilities across the Humanities

MoHu Book  | 2023 Routledge edited collection Reimagining Mobilities across the Humanities

The scientific objective of Reimagining Mobilities across the Humanities is to significantly advance the study of mobilities, understood as the movement of ideas, objects, people and texts in past and present societies as well as in different geographical contexts. Taking advantage of a rich and unique mix of disciplines (anthropology, geography, history and philology), with a distinctive reference to the connections between past and present times (from antiquity to contemporaneity), this book in two volumes aims to contribute to the emerging area of mobility studies through the humanities, which is increasingly pursued by other research hubs worldwide. The volumes are edited by 3 and written by 49 members of the Centre for Advanced Studies in Mobility and the Humanities. The structure of the books mirrors the thematic research clusters of the Centre: Theories and Methods, Ideas (vol. 1); Objects, People and Texts (vol. 2). All of the twenty seven chapters of the two books seek a dialogue with renowned international scholars in the field of mobility studies, who have closely interacted with authors and editors and critically discussed the research outcomes of the book by writing an afterword for each section. The publication in the framework of the Routledge series “Changing Mobilities” will allow the book to become an international benchmark in the field of mobility studies.


Edited by:

Lucio Biasiori

Federico Mazzini

Chiara Rabbiosi

Museum objects in movement

Museum objects in movement

Project in collaboration with the Department of Geography and the Centre for the GeoHumanities, Royal Holloway, University of London (Prof Felix Driver, Dr Caroline Cornish)

Despite their illusory condition of immobility, museum objects represent the meeting point of a wide bundle of itineraries, each of which has enriched them in meaning and, therefore, narrative potential through time. The mobility perspective allows us to read these itineraries and circulations as main components of the value of objects and to better understand the complexity of the role they play for their heritage communities.

Among the numerous kinds of movement that can involve museum objects, the basic one concerns the trajectories objects have followed from their production places to the collection seat itself, their main stages, the actors involved, the reasons behind them, the techniques, materials, and representations. Mobility is a defining characteristic in the life and history of objects. The point of origin of an object’s trajectory, however, coincides with the destination point of the trajectories traced by the commodity chains of its material components, and connections between unexpectedly distant places are revealed, together with the historical roots of contemporary topics like the object’s environmental and social sustainability.

Objects also trace spatial trajectories in relation to their use in different practices and places. Thinking of science and geography museum collections, for instance, instruments might have known a mobile outdoor life related to fieldwork-based research, either in specific location or widely spread. In such a context, the reconstruction of the instruments’ itineraries might allow us to compose different heritage expressions into a coherent mobility-based system, both tangible (instruments, photographs, documents, maps, etc.) and intangible (research output, practices of knowledge construction and research documentation, teaching habits, etc.). Moreover, focusing on the life of plants, botanical, and ethnobotanical collections in terms of the mobility/immobility turn means to look at their “life cycle” through a different conceptual and theoretical lens.

The meaning of objects is also frequently affected by shifts and changes. Although this can appear a metaphorical application of the mobility paradigm, such a shift in the meaning of an object is often related to its physical transfer and the consequent change of its perception and/or use by new subjects. Vice versa, sometimes the transfer itself represents the evidence of a change of significance for the person or community dealing with it.

The Covid-19 emergency is multiplying the number of museum objects involved in another kind of mobility: digitized and shared online, narrated through virtual tours and podcasts, they are moving creatively from Museum platforms to people’s digital devices and therefore potentially towards everywhere and everyone. Tracing their movements along the ramifications of the WWW would represent an extremely interesting investigation under several points of view.

Thanks to the Museum of Geography and the Botanical Garden of the University of Padova, we bring together different traditions and fields of studies, such as museum studies, history of science, historical geography, and material culture history. In our research project we aim at deepening the multilayered concepts connected to the idea of museum objects’ mobility. On the one hand, we follow different “things” through their uses, itineraries, trajectories and circulations in space and time. On the other hand, we focus on the theoretical implications connected to the general idea of mobility of objects in museums.

Coordinated by:

Elena Canadelli

Chiara Gallanti

Mauro Varotto

Giovanni Donadelli

Bo 2022 Project

Bo 2022 Project

Go to the website

Digital project coordinated by Pierluigi Terenzi, Dennj Solera, Giulia Zornetta, Andrea Martini

“Bo 2022” is an innovative digital project that explores the history of the University of Padua by mapping the academic population who animated its cultural and institutional life from the foundation of the Studium in 1222 to the 20th century. Starting from the previous project PADU-A financed by the DiSSGeA, a team composed of medievalists, early modern and modern historians designed an open-access database by using Nodegoat, a web-based research environment developed to build, manage and visualise large sets of historical information. The project is also supported by the University of Padua, the Center for the history of the University of Padua (CSUP), and the University Museum Centre (CAM).

The “Bo 2022” dataset focuses on the students who graduated at the University of Padua during the past 800 years as well as on professors and other employees. Due to the different sources available for each historical period, the database is conceived in modular and separated sections. Each one contains a wide range of prosopographical information, that may include the geographical origin of the students, the scientific area of their studies, their religious belief, the title of their thesis, the final evaluation and many other aspects.

  1. The Medieval Age section (1222-1405) maps all the people who had been qualified as having a relationship with the University during the 13th and 14th centuries by using mainly (but not only) the private charters edited by Andrea Gloria.
  2. The Quattrocento and the “Paduan Golden Age” section (1406-1605) focuses on the students who graduated at the University in that period and were thus recorded in the Acta graduum academicorum Gymnasii Patavini.
  3. The Modern Age section (1606-1805) collects the academic population of Padua from the last years of Galileo’s teaching period to the Austrian government’s reforms.
  4. The Contemporary Age section (19th to 20th centuries) maps all the students who graduated at the University of Padua and, whenever possible, their tutors by using both the students’ files and the dissertation records produced, that were produced by each Faculty.

Beside these sections, the database also focuses on some cross-cutting aspects concerning more than one period: the copyists of medieval manuscripts (13th to 15th centuries) who declared in their writings a connection with the Studium of Padua as current or graduated students, and the hundreds of the students’ coats of arms that have been preserved in the Palazzo del Bo as well as in other buildings of the city (15th to 17th centuries).

Starting from the database, the “Bo 2022” research fellows aims to carry out research on the circulation of both people and ideas connected to such an important centre of high-culture and learning. Consequently, the project is strictly connected with the mobility studies and aims to give an important contribution in measuring the attractiveness of the University of Padua in both an European and Global perspective. Beside the database, three books dedicated to specific aspects of the history of the university will be published on the 800th anniversary of its foundation. The subjects include the mobility of students and its consequences on both their career development and the urban life of Padua during the medieval and early modern period; the intellectual, religious and social freedom guaranteed by the university (the so-called patavina libertas); women and the University of Padua.

Equipe of research

  • Pierluigi Terenzi (1222-1405 and general supervisor/coordinator)
  • Giulia Zornetta (1406-1500)
  • Dennj Solera (1501-1806)
  • Andrea Martini (19th-20th centuries)

Advisory Board

  • Filiberto Agostini
  • Andrea Caracausi
  • Maria Cristina La Rocca
  • Paola Molino
  • Carlotta Sorba
  • Giuliana Tomasella
  • Nicoletta Giovè (manuscripts and copyists)
  • Franco Benucci (coats of arms)

Database collaborators

  • Claudio Caldarazzo (CSUP)
  • Antonella De Robbio
  • Elisa Furlan (Borsista “Mille e una lode”)
  • Michele Magri
  • Manoel Maronese
  • Maria Giada Semeraro (CISM)

Some datasets are provided by

  • Rossella Bortolotto (CSUP)
  • Elisabetta Hellmann (CSUP)
  • Remigio Pegoraro (CSUP)

Interns (updated June 2020)

Cecilia Alfier, Nicolò Anegg, Giulia Arnaldi, Luca Bertolani Azeredo, Maria Grazia Bevilacqua, Pavle Bonca, Caterina Borsato, Martina Borsato, Fabio Boscagin, Alex Brodesco, Daniela Buccomino, Riccardo Cantagallo, Alessandro Chinello, Giusy Ciacera Magauda, Manuel Dell’Armi, Andrea Di  Renzo, Silvia Di Girolamo, Laura Famengo, Federico Feletti, Lisa Fonzaghi, Rosaria Frisone, Marco Gallo, Maria Cecilia Ghetti, Gianlorenzo Giordano, Martina Greco, Federico Jarc, Gautier Juret Rafin, Tommaso Laganà, Giacomo Lago, Rodrigo Macario, Danilo Marcantonio, Riccardo Mardegan, Alessio Menini, Mauro Montesani, Michele Mosena, Marta Nezzo, Jérémy Perret, Francesco Piovan, Enrico Rampazzo, Edoardo Ranzato, Gianluca Ratti, Manuela Rivecchio, Alberto Rosada, Alessandro Ruzzon, Luca Sallustio, Francesco Sartori, Lucia Squillace, Luca Tomasin, Vladana Trapara, Raffaele Usai, Carlo Vettore, Alessia Visentin, Giorgia Visentin, Matteo Visentin, Michele Visentin, Stefano Viviani, Giovanni Zanella, Francesca Zaramella, Piero Zin.

Mobility in Historical Perspective: Oxford-Berlin-Padua Research Network

Mobility in Historical Perspective: Oxford-Berlin-Padua Research Network

Mobility in Historical Perspective is a networking project focused on the theme of mobility from a historical perspective. Students and researchers from the Universities of Oxford, Berlin (Humboldt and Freie Universität) and Padua.

are part of this network, whose participants meet once a year in one of the partner cities to discuss the various facets of the theme of mobility in history (human mobility, intellectual mobility and economic mobility).

Mobility in Historical Perspective provides opportunities to discuss and share knowledge among scholars. It is indeed in international workshops that innovative perspectives on traditional research issues usually arise by challenging established points of view and methodologies.

By adopting a long-term chronological approach, the project shows that mobility has always been a central feature of human life. Moreover, it gives the opportunity to look at the phenomenon of mobility from different perspectives, comparing various historiographical approaches and methods depending not just on the individual formation and preference of the scholars, but also on their affiliation. The meetings of the three academic communities, indeed, demonstrate that there are different angles from which mobility studies can be approached and the project gives everyone the opportunity to get acquainted with the different scholarly traditions of the three countries. At the same time, new approaches which emerge in such environments affect the universities involved as a whole, enhancing the development of new research cultures inside the university itself, thus facilitating academic renewal.


Coordinated at DiSSGeA by:

Andrea Caracausi

Maria Cristina La Rocca

Matteo Millan

Mobility from a cultural perspective: connections between cultural histories, cultural geographies and literary studies

Mobility from a cultural perspective: connections between cultural histories, cultural geographies and literary studies

Project in collaboration with the CRPM (Centre de recherches pluridisciplinaires et multilingues), Université Paris Nanterre, projet ‘Espace, Déplacement, Mobilité’ (responsables Adrien Frenay and Lucia Quaquarelli)

In their recent delineation of the new subfield of Mobility and the Humanities, Merriman and Pearce (2017) focused on the specific contributions that a humanistic perspective can bring to the well-established field of mobility studies. First, the Humanities allow the exploration of the experience of mobility in addition to the factual movement of people, objects and ideas; second, they introduce a historical perspective, stressing the temporal dimension of mobility processes and practices; third, the Humanities work with texts and representations; forth, they are particularly capable of generating theoretical possibilities for the interpretation of mobility in its nuanced variations. Merriman and Pearce (2017) also underline the need to rediscover the alternative genealogies that offered early or implicit theorisation of mobility in the humanistic field. This project uses what Bal (2002) called a ‘concept based methodology’ to study ‘travelling concepts’ in the Humanities to propose a mobility-based methodology for fields such as cultural history, cultural geography and literary studies (but also visual and classical studies). The temporal frame extends from antiquity to the present and to possible futures. The mobility of people and objects, of ideas and cultural products, as well the contexts and the infrastructures hosting these mobilities may be captured from research angles that help not only to explore the meanings of movement but also to reimagine mobility studies from a humanistic and cultural perspective. How does the evocative concept of mobility impact our intellectual creativity? What is the potential of this concept to generate transdisciplinary and transmedial nexuses? If movement becomes mobility when it ceases to be factual evidence and becomes practice and discourse, experience and meaning (Cresswell, 2010), what are the different nuances of mobility in past, present and future times?

The project includes a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the University of Padova and the CRPM at the Université Paris Nanterre, networking activities, meetings and seminars, a joint conference, and the publication of an edited collection.

Coordinated at DiSSGeA by:

Tania Rossetto

Carlotta Sorba

Giada Peterle

Communities in the Early Middle Ages

Communities in the Early Middle Ages

Project in partnership with ECOLE FRANÇAISE DE ROME (COMMUNAUTES. À la recherche des communautés du Haut Moyen Âge : formes, pratiques, interactions - VIe-XIe siècles; P.I. Geneviève Buhrer Thierry, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne and Maria Cristina La Rocca, Università di Padova, DISSGeA)

“Communities in the Early Middle Ages” is a five-years research project financed by the Ecole Française de Rome (2018-2022). It focuses its attention on small communities that are based on common practices on a local or regional scale, looking for their constituent elements. The exogenous notion of community makes it possible to orient our research not towards its essence, but towards the modalities of its implementation (i. e. through the lived space, collective memories, circulation and mobility through space) and to assess if the expression of its identity is conscious or if it is instead created or manipulated by an outside agent (i.e. group of people paying the same tax, or having to fight together).

Recent historiography reveals two main strands of research: the first one is interested in identifying the formation of religious communities within society; the second is interested in the process of  the institutionalization of communities. If communities never represent moral persons before the 12th century, nevertheless certain historians do not hesitate to define communities certain villages or group of villages from the Early Middle Ages, in relation to the territory and the emergence of the seigneurial lordship. W. Davies uses the concept of community territory to emphasize the fact that peasant ownership is not a series of isolates plots but constitutes a network of interrelations.

The scientific interest of such a study is based on the discussion of concepts from the social sciences such as the flexible notion of community of practice (E. Wenger): the members of a community are gradually trained through their participation more and more complete with the group activities. Their interactions with experienced members gradually transform them into full members, capable in turn of forming new members. We will also consider the modes of construction but also of dissolution/destruction of communities: construction by the norm, by processes of exclusion and inclusion, by the constitution of a hierarchy. Finally, we will tackle the crucial question of ideal communities: the study of the discourses that legitimize the community will shed light on the way it represents itself, reproduces itself, transmits its own memory and guides the construction of the identities of the subjects that compose it.

The project has brought together several conferences, which are currently being published by Brepols editions (Collection Haut Moyen Age).

Participants at Dissgea:

Maria Cristina La Rocca (P.I.)

Gianmarco De Angelis

Giulia Zornetta

The march of General Sherman’s armies through South Carolina (1865)

The march of General Sherman’s armies through South Carolina (1865)

The research is conducted in collaboration with the Department of Geography at the University of South Carolina (USC)-Columbia with aims to develop a WebGIS in collaboration with the Center for Digital Humanities at USC.

General William T. Sherman’s armies visit to Georgia and South Carolina during the American Civil War is well-known throughout the Southern states. His march is remembered primarily through the plundering and devastation by his five armies in Sherman’s quest to end the war. What has been poorly investigated is the relationships between the individual paths of the armies and the environment. This geohistorical research aims to create a detailed GIS reconstruction of the individual routes of the armies in relation to 1) existing transportation routes at the time of the Civil War, 2) the wetlands environment and 3) episodic meteorological events. Comparisons of the existing transportation routes and routes the armies traversed as strategic choices are conducted.

The research methods includes both qualitative and quantitative analysis of data gathered from different sources – historical maps, memoirs, newspapers, diaries, photos and field surveys

Coordinated at DiSSGeA by: Silvia E. Piovan