Natalie Zemon Davis Annual Lecture Series 2016 - Writing Cities: Exploring Early Modern Urban Discourse by James Amelang

Natalie Zemon Davis Annual Lecture Series
Open to the Public
Nador u. 15
Tuesday, December 6, 2016 - 5:30pm
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Tuesday, December 6, 2016 - 5:30pm


Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

James S. Amelang studied History and Romance Languages at Oberlin College (BA '74), International Relations at Johns Hopkins-SAIS (MA '76), and History at Princeton University (Ph.D '82). A junior year abroad in Madrid, graduate study in Bologna, and doctoral research in Barcelona laid the foundations of his interest in early modern European history, and after teaching at the University of Florida he settled in Madrid, where he has taught at the Universidad Autónoma since 1989. His principal books are Honored Citizens of Barcelona: Patrician Culture and Class Relations, 1490-1714 (1986); A Journal of the Plague Year: The Diary of the Barcelona Tanner Miquel Parets, 1651 (1991); The Flight of Icarus: Artisan Autobiography in Early Modern Europe (1998); and Parallel Histories: Jews and Muslims in Inquisitorial Spain (2013). The greatest fun he has had as a historian has been to co-author (with Gary McDonogh and Xavier Gil) Twelve Walks through Barcelona's Past (1992). His current project is to complete the Oxford History of Early Modern Spain.


Only one out of every ten early modern Europeans lived in cities. Yet cities were crucial nodes, joining together producers and consumers, rulers and ruled, and believers in diverse faiths and futures. They also generated an enormous amount of writing, much of which focused on civic life itself. Yet despite its obvious importance, historians have paid surprisingly little attention to urban discourse; its forms, themes, emphases and silences all invite further study. These lectures explore various dimensions of how and what early modern citizens wrote about their cities, and offer practical suggestions regarding the different ways historians can approach such a diverse and intriguing textual corpus. At the same time they highlight the extraordinary contribution Natalie Davis has made to our understanding of early modern urban society and culture.

LECTURE 1 - 5.30pm on December 6, 2016


Who wrote about early modern cities, and which forms did city men and women adopt and adapt when doing so? This lecture opens by surveying the range, genres, and themes of urban discourse produced within a single city, Barcelona. Focusing on the social background of their authors reveals that most of them hailed from the civic elite; however, a significant part of this discourse originated among merchants and even artisans. It then examines civic texts containing or organized around two specific motifs-- the presentation of a city by taking a walk through it, or by climbing a tower to see it-- in order to get a broader view of what sorts of citizens chose to write about cities. Finally, the lecture closes with a few observations about how this discourse-- and its authors-- changed over time.