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Dr Filippo de Vivo

Reader in Early Modern History

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

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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 repositories of information.

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.

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’, and I co-teach the survey course on Europe from 1500-1800.
  • I am currently co-supervising a PhD student working on the inquisition in medieval Italy and one working on medicine and botany in sixteenth-century Florence. I welcome research proposals concerning the social, political and cultural history of early modern Italy and 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 in Italy.

Current activities


  • Communication and politics in early modern Venice and Italy
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Patrizi, informatori, barbieri. Politica e comunicazione a Venezia nella prima età moderna (Milan: Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore, 2012).
  • ‘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).
  • '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.
  • '"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
  • ‘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
  • ‘Historical Justifications of Venetian Power in the Adriatic’, Journal of the History of Ideas, v.64 (2003), pp. 159-76.
  • 'Ordering the archive in early modern Venice (1400-1650)', Archival Science, 10 (2010): 231-248.
  • '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).
  • “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.
  • Spaces of cultural exchange in early modern Italy
  • ‘Pharmacies as centres of communication in early modern Venice’, Renaissance Studies, v.21 (2007): 505-521.
  • '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.
  • 'La spezieria come luogo di cultura nell’Italia della prima età moderna', in Andrea Carlino, Antonio Clericuzio, and Maria Conforti (eds.), Medicina, cura e salute nel Rinascimento (Roma: Carocci, forthcoming).
  • 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).

Contact details

Room: 201b, 30 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DQ
Tel: 020 7631 6319