I am an associate professor in early modern history, with a focus on Europe and the Mediterranean. I am interested in how people and rulers navigated political and social conflict, change, and environmental disasters in the early modern city. Moreover, what fascinates me is how people in the past opted to (not) document certain events, and what specific silences and gaps in the archives can tell us. My earlier work focused on migration and commerce in Italy, the interplay between famines and international trade, Christian-Islamic contacts, and civic ritual and contestation. I have a keen interest in chronological comparisons and collaborations with specialists of other regions.
My current book project, provisionally entitled Uncovering Protest in Venice. Contestation and Archival Politics in the Early Modern Period, focuses on the power at play in the archive, drawing inspiration from postcolonial studies, which have shown how power inequalities silence certain voices in archives, in narratives, and, ultimately, in history. Working on foreign diplomatic dispatches sent from Venice, I noticed reports on food riots, invasions of the Ducal Palace, and demonstrations in Saint Mark’s Square: popular political actions that according to official sources never occurred in Venice. Overviews of early modern European history, in fact, present Venice – one of the largest cities of that era – as the benchmark of political stability, its people essentially politically mute. I realized this was a missing political dimension, which allowed me to track the process of archival suppression. The book aims to show how ordinary Venetians were written out of government records, and hence out of history. Through a revision of Venetian social and political history, it deals with the fundamental question “Who owns the past?”. Parts of this research have been published in Past and Present and The Journal of Modern History.
Combining my earlier work on famine and international trade with my interest in food riots and urban protest, I am also interested in how cities changed socially, politically, culturally, and spatially during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when climate change caused cyclical harvest failures, famines, and waves of popular protest.
I studied Economic and Social History at the University of Amsterdam and the Università di Ca' Foscari di Venezia. For my PhD (2007) on migration and commerce in early modern Venice, I spent a lot of time in the Venetian, Florentine and Vatican archives and, through two grants from the Marie Curie programme "European Doctorate in the Social History of Europe and the Mediterranean”, was part of Ca’ Foscari’s doctorate programme. NWO awarded me a VENI grant in 2011 for a project on informal politics and diplomacy in early modern Venice. That year I also spent a semester as Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. In 2013, I was Queen Wilhelmina Visiting Professor at Columbia University and Fellow at the Italian Academy of Advanced Studies in America (New York).
In 2018-2019, I was a fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS) and a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. An Aspasia grant from NWO currently allows me to work on my project on Venetian protest and the politics of forgetting. In 2023, I spent three months as a visiting professor at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome. Between 2020-2022, I was the director of the Amsterdam School of Historical Studies (ASH). I am the co-founder and former director of UvA's Amsterdam Centre for Urban History (ACUH). I am currently the co-chair of the Associate Professors Sounding Board of the Dutch Network of Women Professors, together with Roshanak Darvishzadeh (University of Twente). Recently, I co-founded the research network Archives of Power/The Power of Archives with colleagues at UvA, Leiden, and Utrecht: we invite Research MA students, PhDs, and experienced researchers with an interest in archives as sites of knowledge production, and in how we write our histories, to join us.
I will be on sabbatical until April 2024, with limited availability for thesis and tutorial supervision.