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At the end of the Middle Ages, Venice was one of the most populous cities in the Mediterranean, one of the most dynamic and one of the richest. The Rialto markets overflowed with food, the busy streets of the Mercerie were filled with precious goods, and the countless workshops scattered around the city produced day after day the objects and artefacts that fed the Venetian international trade networks. But what was the ecological cost of such wealth? How did the lagoon manage to absorb the waste produced by the tens of thousands of inhabitants who populated the city? What were the consequences in terms of pollution of the activity of the butchers and dyers, of the saturation of the canals by hundreds of boats and ships, of the constant construction and reconstruction of magnificent palaces and churches ? This lecture will explore the environmental history of the Venetian lagoon in the late Middle Ages, focusing on the history of pollution and analysing how, in the 14th and 15th centuries, the government of the Serenissima and the inhabitants took action to safeguard their environment, a history that is bound to raise questions about the issues the lagoon and the city of Venice still face today.

Claire Judde de Larivière is a professor of medieval history at the University of Toulouse. Her work focuses on the history of Venetian society at the end of the Middle Ages, in particular the common people, their political actions and forms of social organisation. Her publications include The Revolt of Snowballs: Murano confronts Venice, 1511 (2018), and she co-edited with Maartje van Gelder, Popular Politics in an Aristocratic Republic: Political Conflict and Social Contestation in Late Medieval and Early Modern Venice (2020). Her latest work L’ordinaire des savoirs: Une histoire pragmatique de la société vénitienne (XVe-XVIe siècle) was published in 2023. She is currently leading a research project on pollution and waste management in the Venetian lagoon and the Mediterranean at the end of the Middle Ages.


This event is jointly hosted with the Venice in Peril Fund


A glass of prosecco will follow the talk


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Monday 26 February 2024