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Abandoned Children of the Italian Renaissance

Orphan Care in Florence and Bologna

Nearly half of the children who lived in the cities of the late Italian Renaissance were under fifteen years of age. Grinding poverty, unstable families, and the death of a parent could make caring for these young children a burden. Many were abandoned, others orphaned. At a time when political rulers fashioned themselves as the "fathers" of society, these cast-off children presented a very immediate challenge and opportunity.

In Bologna and Florence, government and private institutions pioneered orphanages to care for the growing number of homeless children. Nicholas Terpstra discusses the founding and management of these institutions, the procedures for placing children into them, the children's daily routine and education, and finally their departure from these homes. He explores the role of the city-state and considers why Bologna and Florence took different paths in operating the orphanages. Terpstra finds that Bologna's orphanages were better run, looked after the children more effectively, and were more successful in returning their wards to society as productive members of the city's economy. Florence's orphanages were larger and harsher, and made little attempt to reintegrate children into society.

Based on extensive archival research and individual stories, Abandoned Children of the Italian Renaissance demonstrates how gender and class shaped individual orphanages in each city's network and how politics, charity, and economics intertwined in the development of the early modern state.

About the Author

Nicholas Terpstra (TORONTO, ON) is a professor of history at the University of Toronto.

Reviews

"Carefully researched and vigorously written."

- Choice

"A model blend of historical imagination, vivid and engaging writing, and careful scholarship."

- Renaissance Quarterly

"Terpstra has unearthed much rich material and offers readers a compelling analysis of the origins, roles, operations and development of children's homes in two important Italian cities... This work is a major contribution to the study of early modern orphanages."

- H-Net Reviews

"Superbly executed study."

- Margaret L. King - American Historical Review

"Important contribution to the history of early modern Europe."

- Journal of Modern History

"Vividly written."

- Confraternitas

"Profoundly researched."

- Journal of Social History

"A richly detailed and perceptive discussion of a fascinating topic."

- Sixteenth Century Journal

"A significant strength... in this soundly researched and well-written work is the connection it makes between the social and economic challenges the two cities faced and the development of networks of children's homes."

- Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education
Johns Hopkins University Press
The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science
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9780801881848 : abandoned-children-of-the-italian-renaissance-terpstra
Hardback
368 Pages
$56.00 USD
9781421439242 : abandoned-children-of-the-italian-renaissance-terpstra
Paperback / softback
368 Pages
$39.95 USD
9781421429335 : abandoned-children-of-the-italian-renaissance-terpstra
Electronic book text
368 Pages
$39.95 USD

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