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Professor Filippo de Vivo

Professor of Early Modern History

Office hours: Tuesdays, 16:30-17:30, or by appointment

Contact details

Department of History, Classics and Archaeology
Birkbeck, University of London
Room 326
26 Russell Square


Research interests

  • My research focuses on early modern Italy and the Republic of Venice to explore the connections between communication and politics widely conceived – so widely, indeed, that it seeks to rethink the very concept of who acted politically, how and why. So for example I have worked on the uses of rhetoric and the circulation of manuscripts, on news-leaking, book-printing and record-making, on the physical spaces for the exchange of ideas and information (like early modern pharmacies), the international circulation of ideas (as with a 17th-c. correspondence between Venice and England), and on the construction of late-medieval and early modern archives and other repositories of information. I have a strong interest for questions of historiography and methodology, and particularly for the uses of microhistory and for the connections between political, social and cultural history.

Communication and politics

  • Today we take it for granted that power and the media influence each other. But what was the use of communication in an age when rulers recognized no political role for their subjects? And what access to political information did those excluded from government have? In answering these questions, I studied the interactions of different forms of communication – oral, manuscript, and printed – in early modern Venice: from pamphlets to graffiti and rumours (captured, as far as possible, from spies' reports: a fascinating source). In the process, I have been trying to challenge the traditional boundaries of political history, to demonstrate that, in the early modern city, politics extended beyond the patrician elite to involve the entire population, from humble clerks and foreign spies, to notaries, artisans, barbers, and prostitutes.
  • Information and Communication in Venice: Rethinking Early Modern Politics was published by Oxford University Press in 2007 (paperback 2009) and was awarded the Royal Historical Society Gladstone Prize proxime accessit. From this came Patrizi informatori barbieri: politica e comunicazione a Venezia nella prima età moderna, published by Feltrinelli in February 2012: this is effectively a new book, including much original material as well as a substantial bibliography of pamphlets published in 1606-7 (321 editions, many of them anonymous and prohibited). Above all, the book poses a methodological challenge: by starting from an event – the famous controversy in which pope Paul V launched an interdict on Venice in 1606 – it opens a window onto the long-term interaction between politics and communication in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The new comparative conclusion brings the argument beyond Venice, to Italy and the rest of Europe.

History and archives

  • In 2012-16 I conducted a large-scale collaborative investigation on the comparative history of archives in late medieval and early modern Italy (for more, see Together with two post-docs, Andrea Guidi and Giacomo Giudici, and two PhD students, Giacomo Giudici and Fabio Antonini, we studied the establishment, management and use of archives from the 13th century – when those chancery offices first began preserving records systematically – to the end of the 18th – when Italy’s old states were toppled by wars and revolutions at the end of the ancien régime.
  • The project compared chanceries and secretariats in seven case studies (Milan, Venice, Modena, Florence, Rome, Naples and Palermo) with other Italian and non-Italian cases. A variety of aspects were studied around a set of six themes:
  • 1) Politics: the resources that institutions devoted to record-keeping and the political uses of archives.
  • 2) Organisation: the ways in which offices divided archival tasks and arranged records, as reflected in variations in documentary series, inventories and other finding tools.
  • 3) Material aspects and culture: the physicality of records (writing, supports, bindings) and repositories (furniture, buildings).
  • 4) The social history of record-keepers, from secretaries to their aides, minor clerks and custodians responsible for the physical state of archives.
  • 5) The uses of archives by outsiders, for information or evidence (eg individuals and families accessing notarial records held in state repositories), including ‘misuses’ such as the unlawful circulation of documents and the destruction of archives during riots.
  • 6)The knowledge of archives by historians in the pay of late medieval and early modern governments. Through unknown evidence of access and patronage we demonstrated the presence of archival evidence in published and unpublished histories.
  • In our work and publications we established a basic periodization common to all case studies and demonstrated: the multifaceted importance of archives as centres for knowledge organisation and production, not just preservation; the mixed material, political, and intellectual preoccupations that informed archival administration; the relevance of archives to the lives of people beyond government institutions. We critiqued the pre-eminence traditionally given to Central and Northern Italy, and demonstrated the vitality and inventiveness of archival practices in the South. And we demonstrated the ways in which scholars since the late Middle Ages made sustained use of archives.
  • We organised a succession of nine international workshops and conferences. Collectively we published a book, a further collection of sources, and 2 special issues of peer-reviewed journals. Team members published a total of 23 book chapters or articles.
  • Our main publications are listed below. More will appear soon.
  • Archivi e archivisti in Italia tra medioevo e età moderna (Rome: Viella, 2015), ed. de Vivo, Guidi and Silvestri.
  • Scholarly practices in the archives, 1500-1800, special issue of Storia della storiografia, 68/2 (2015), ed. de Vivo and Maria Pia Donato.
  • Archival transformations in early modern Europe, special issue of European History Quarterly, 46/3 (2016), ed. de Vivo, Guidi and Silvestri.
  • Fonti per la storia degli archivi degli antichi stati italiani (Rome: Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali, Direzione Generale Archivi, 2016), an anthology of 320 documents divided into 6 chapters (corresponding to the themes listed above) with critical introductions. Ed. de Vivo, Guidi, Silvestri, with the collaboration of Antonini and Giudici.
  • More publications can be viewed below or in the project’s Academia webpage.

Collaborative projects

  • The history of archives - ERC funded project.
  • Scribal culture. Together with Brian Richardson (Leeds) and in partnership with the British Library, I organized a series of AHRC-funded workshops on the theme of Scribal Culture in Italy, 1450-1650. They brought together leading experts from Italy, France, the USA, and the United Kingdom, and were kindly hosted by such libraries the Bodleian of Oxford and the John Rylands in Manchester, and by museums such as the Wellcome Collection and the Victoria & Albert in London. Some of the papers were published in 2010 in a special issue of Italian Studies on “Scribal Culture in Italy, 1450-1700”.
  • Venice and England, Micanzio, Cavendish and Hobbes. I am currently working on reason of state, religion and information at a European level while preparing a critical edition of Thomas Hobbes’ translation of the letters by Fulgenzio Micanzio (1570-1654), Venetian friar and government advisor to the Venetian Republic, to Hobbes’ patron William Cavendish, second Earl of Devonshire. This will appear in a volume, co-edited with Noel Malcolm (Oxford), of the Clarendon edition of the works of Hobbes.


Teaching interests and research supervision

  • I teach courses on 'Power and Communication in Early Modern Europe', 'Popular Politics in Early Modern Italy', 'The Cultural History of Venice', ‘The comparative history of cities’, ‘The Renaissance in Italy and Europe’ and I co-teach the survey course on the early modern world, 1500-1750.
  • I have supervised and co-supervised PhD students working on the inquisition in medieval Italy, medicine and botany in sixteenth-century Florence, archival practices and historiography in early modern Venice, the chancery culture of sixteenth-century Milan, and archival practices in the medieval Middle East. I welcome research proposals concerning the social, political and cultural history of early modern Italy and of the territories of the Republic of Venice; the history of the book, print, manuscript and oral culture, mainly of Italy but also of France and the Iberian peninsula; the history of late-medieval and early modern archives and chanceries or secretary offices.


  • Communication and politics in early modern Venice and Italy
  • With Marion Brétéché, Héloise Hermant, Christian Jouhaud and Eléonore Serdeczny, ‘Dans l’événement’, in Grihl, Ecriture et action, XVIIe-XIXe siècle, une enquête collective (Paris, Editions de l’Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, 2016), pp. 61-96.
  • “Sfera publiczna czy trójkat komunikacyjny? Informacja i polityka we wczesnonowozytnej Europie”, in Michał Wendland, ed., Historia idei komunikacji (Poznan: Adam Mickiewicz University Press, 2015): 229-255.
  • “Sfera pubblica o triangolo della comunicazione? Informazione e politica nella prima età moderna”, in Massimo Rospocher, ed., Oltre la sfera pubblica. Lo spazio della politica nell’Europa moderna (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2013): 31-54.
  • “Public Sphere or Communication Triangle? Information and Politics in Early Modern Europe”, in Massimo Rospocher (ed.), Beyond the Public Sphere. Opinions, Publics, Spaces in Early Modern Europe, Annali dell'Istituto storico italo-germanico in Trento (Bologna and Berlin: Il Mulino and Duncker & Humblot, 2012): 115-36.
  • Patrizi, informatori, barbieri. Politica e comunicazione a Venezia nella prima età moderna (Milan: Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore, 2012).
  • Filippo de Vivo and Brian Richardson, eds., Scribal Culture in Italy, 1450-1700, special issue of Italian Studies, v. 66 (2011).
  • “How to Read Venetian Relazioni”, in Renaissance & Reformation, v. 34, Special issue ‘Relations, rélations, relazioni’, ed. by Thomas Cohen and Germaine Warkentin (2011): 25-59.
  • Libelles en guerre. Pouvoirs et imprimé pendant l'interdit de Venise (1606-1607)', in Ricardo Saez (ed.), L'imprimé et ses pouvoirs dans les langues romanes (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2009): 149-72.
  • ‘La guerra delle scritture: Stampa e potere durante l’Interdetto’, in G. Benzoni, ed., L’Interdetto di Venezia e lo Stato Marciano (Rovigo: Minelliana, 2008): 105-22.
  • ‘Rhetoric and government in sixteenth-century Venice: some paradoxes’, The Italianist, v. 27, special issue 'Caro Vitto: Essays in Memory of Vittore Branca', ed. J. Kraye and L. Lepschy (2007): 188-205.
  • Information and Communication in Venice: Rethinking Early Modern Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). Awarded proxime accessit the Royal Historical Society’s Gladstone Prize for best first book on non-British History in 2007.
  • ‘El “Paternoster degli spagnoli”: Notas sobre la comunicación política en la Venecia del Cinquecento’, in Antonio Castillo Gómez y James S. Amelang (dirs.), y Carmen Serrano Sánchez (eds.): La ciudad de las palabras. Opinión pública y espacio urbano en la Edad Moderna (Gijón: Trea, in press).
  • '"Il vero termine di reggere il suddito": Paolo Sarpi e la gestione dell'informazione', in Ripensando Paolo Sarpi, ed. Corrado Pin (Venice: Ateneo Veneto, 2006), pp. 237-270.
  • 'Paolo Sarpi and the Uses of Information in Seventeenth-Century Venice', Media History, 11 (2005), pp. 37-51 (also published in J. Raymond, ed. News and Networks in Seventeenth-Century Britain and Europe (London: Routledge, 2006).)
  • (Co-author) De la publication. Entre Renaissance et Lumières, with the Groupe de Recherches Interdisciplinaires Histoire et Littérature (Paris: Fayard, 2002); chapter ‘La publication comme enjeu polémique. Le cas de Venise au XVIIe siècle’, pp. 161-75.
  • ‘Le armi dell'ambasciatore. Voci e manoscritti a Parigi durante l'Interdetto di Venezia’, in I luoghi della produzione della cultura e dell'immaginario barocco in Italia, ed. L. Strappini and G. Ragone (Napoli: Liguori, 2001), pp. 187-200.
  • ‘Dall'imposizione del silenzio alla “guerra delle scritture”. Le pubblicazioni ufficiali durante l'interdetto del 1606-1607’, Studi veneziani, v.41 (2001), pp. 179-213.
  • Archives and historiography, early modern to modern
  • Fonti per la storia degli archivi degli antichi Stati italiani (Roma: Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo, 2016), vol. 49 of the ‘Fonti’ (Sources) series of the Direzione Generale per gli Archivi, ed. with Andrea Guidi and Alessandro Silvestri.
  • Archival Transformations in Early Modern Europe, special issue of European History Quarterly, 46 (2016), ed. with Andrea Guidi and Alessandro Silvestri.
  • Archives of Speech: Recording Diplomatic Negotiation in Late Medieval and Early Modern Italy”, European History Quarterly, 46 (2016): 519-544.
  • Archivi e archivisti in Italia tra Medioevo e età moderna (Roma: Viella, 2015), ed. with Andrea Guidi and Alessandro Silvestri.
  • “Cuore dello Stato o luogo di tensione? Archivi, società e politica a Venezia tra Quattro e Seicento”, in Archivi e archivisti in Italia tra Medioevo e età moderna (Roma: Viella, 2015), see above: 173-198.
  • Scholarly Practices in the Archive (16th-18th centuries), special issue of Storia della Storiografia, 68 (2015), ed. with Maria Pia Donato, incl. joint introduction (pp. 15-20).
  • “Technologies du réemploi: mise en ordre/mise en œuvre des archives à Venise (XVe-XVIIe siècle)”, in Caroline Callard, Elisabeth Crouzet-Pavan, and Alain Tallon (eds.), La Politique de l'histoire en Italie: Arts et pratiques du réemploi (XIVe-XVIIe siècle) (Paris: Presses de l'université Paris-Sorbonne, 2014): 307-25.
  • Heart of the State, Site of Tension: The Archival World Viewed from Venice, c. 1400-1700’, Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 68 (2013), pp. 459-485.
  • 'Coeur de l'Etat, lieu de tension. Le tournant archivistique vu de Venise (XVe-XVIIe siècle)', Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 68 (2013), pp. 699-728.
  • Melissa Calaresu, Filippo de Vivo, and Joan-Pau Rubiés, eds. Exploring Cultural History: Essays in Honour of Peter Burke (Aldershot: Ashgate, due September 2010).
  • 'Ordering the archive in early modern Venice (1400-1650)', Archival Science, 10 (2010): 231-248.
  • “Prospect or Refuge? Microhistory, History on the Large Scale: A Response”, Cultural and Social History 7 (2010): 387-97.
  • Edward P. Thompson, L’economia morale, ed. Filippo de Vivo (Milan: Et-al. Edizioni, 2009) - Preface, pp. 1-11.
  • ‘The diversity of Venice and her myths in recent historiography’, The Historical Journal, 47 (2004), pp. 169-177.
  • ‘Historical Justifications of Venetian Power in the Adriatic’, Journal of the History of Ideas, v.64 (2003), pp. 159-76.
  • ‘Quand le passé résiste à ses historiographies : Venise et le XVIIe siècle’, Cahiers du Centre de Recherches Historiques, v.28-29 (2002), pp. 223-34
  • Spaces of cultural exchange in early modern Italy and the Mediterranean
  • Shared Spaces and Knowledge Transactions in the Italian Renaissance City, special issue of I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance, 19 (2016), ed. with Roisin Cossar and Christina Neilson, incl. joint introduction (pp. 5-22) and sole-authored article (below).
  • Walking in Sixteenth-Century Venice: Mobilizing the Early Modern City”, I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance, 19 (2016): 115-141.
  • “Crossroads Region: The Mediterranean”, in Jerry H. Bentley, Sanjay Subrahmanyam and Merry Wiesner-Hanks, eds., The Cambridge History of the World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), v. 6 The Early Modern World, pp. 415-44.
  • “La farmacia come luogo di cultura: le spezierie di medicina in Italia”, in Maria Conforti, Andrea Carlino and Antonio Clericuzio, eds., Interpretare e curare. Medicina e salute nel Rinascimento (Roma: Carocci, 2013), pp. 129-42.
  • 'I luoghi della cultura a Venezia nel primo Cinquecento', in Sergio Luzzatto and Gabriele Pedullà (eds.), Atlante della Letteratura Italiana, 1, Dalle origini al Rinascimento (Torino: Einaudi, 2010): 708-18.
  • ‘Pharmacies as centres of communication in early modern Venice’, Renaissance Studies, v.21 (2007): 505-521.
  • Venice and England
  • Francia e Inghilterra di fronte all'Interdetto di Venezia', in Marie Viallon (ed.), Paolo Sarpi. Politique et religion en Europe (Paris: Editions Classiques Garnier, 2010): 163-88.
  • (Under contract) with Noel Malcolm, eds., Thomas Hobbes, Translation of Fulgenzio Micanzio’s Letters to William Cavendish and Other Early Writings, in The Complete Works of Hobbes (Oxford: Clarendon).