Housecraft and Statecraft: Domestic Service in Renaissance Venice, 1400-1600

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9780801852886: Housecraft and Statecraft: Domestic Service in Renaissance Venice, 1400-1600

Unlike modern households, those of late medieval and early modern European society included many individuals not related by blood or marriage. Prominent among these were domestic servants, members of the lower classes whose duties ranged from managing of the household to raising the children. Within the confines of the household, the powerful and the powerless came together in complex and significant ways.

In Housecraft and Statecraft, historian Dennis Romano examines the realities and significance of domestic service in what was arguably the most important city in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Europe--Venice. Drawing on a variety of materials, including humanist treatises on household management, books of costumes, civic statutes, census data, contracts, wills, and court records, Romano paints a vivid picture of the conditions of domestic labor, the difficult lives of servants, the worries and concerns of masters, and the ambivalent ways in which masters and servants interacted. He also shows how servants--especially gondoliers--came to be seen more and more as symbols of their masters' status.

Housecraft and Statecraft offers a unique perspective on Venice and Venetian society as the city evolved from a merchant-dominated regime in the fifteenth century into an aristocratic oligarchy in the sixteenth. It traces the growth, within the elite, of a new sense of hierarchy and honor. At the same time, it illuminates the strategies that servants developed to resist the ever more powerful elite and, in so doing, demonstrates the centrality of domestic servants in the struggles between rich and poor in early modern Europe.

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Book Description:

Romano examines the realities and significance of domestic service in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Venice.

About the Author:

Dennis Romano is associate professor of history at Syracuse University. He is the author of Patricians and Popolani: The Social Foundations of the Venetian Renaissance State, also available from Johns Hopkins.

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