Dr James Shaw

M.A. (Edin.), Ph.D. (E.U.I. Florence)

Department of History

Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History

Director of Learning and Teaching

+44 114 222 2591

Full contact details

Dr James Shaw
Department of History
Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
S3 7RA

I joined the History Department at the University of Sheffield in 2005. Before this I was an undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh and completed my Ph.D. at the European University Institute in Florence (1998). I subsequently held a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford, for a research project examining petty crime and small claims litigation in early modern Venice. This research won a British Academy Competition for Postdoctoral Monographs and following publication in 2006 as The Justice of Venice: Authorities and Liberties in the Urban Economy, 1550-1700, was awarded The Gladstone Prize of the Royal Historical Society.

In collaboration with Prof. Evelyn Welch, I was Postdoctoral Researcher for the Wellcome Trust project Selling Health in Renaissance Italy from 2002 to 2005, based at the University of Sussex and subsequently Queen Mary University of London. The project examined how pharmaceutical remedies were bought and sold in Renaissance Italy. Through quantitative analysis of the accounts of an apothecary shop, it showed how such businesses acted as intermediaries between changing medical theories and contemporary practice. At the same time, the project emphasized how exchange in this period was strongly embedded in personal connections. This research was published in 2011 as Making and Marketing Medicine in Renaissance Florence. See the reviews in the Oxford, Cambridge and Chicago Journals.

Additionally, I won a Senate Award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching in 2009.

Research interests

My research focuses on the relationship of legal structures (laws, practices, institutions) to the daily practices of economic life. During 2009-10, I examined credit disputes in early modern Florence through close study of supplications for justice. These sources are invaluable for presenting credit disputes embedded in a narrative of personal circumstances, providing rich evidence of market practices, laws and ethics, as well as key aspects of the operation of justice, authority and power in the early modern state.

My new project applies this approach to early modern Venice using denunciations for fraud. Here plaintiffs typically made a moral case that their contractual relations must be interpreted with regard to personal circumstances, in contrast to the normally dry and formal records of debt litigation. I aim to use these records to explore what ethical and legal concepts meant in practice for those operating in the market.

I am presently seeking to develop a research group with interests in the operation of markets, laws and ethics in the early modern period. I welcome contacts with other researchers working in this field, particularly where the approach spans legal, economic and social history.



  • Shaw J & Welch E (2011) Making and Marketing Medicine in Renaissance Florence. Editions Rodopi B.V.. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Shaw JE (2006) The Justice of Venice: Authorities and Liberties in the Urban Economy, 1550-1700. OUP/British Academy. RIS download Bibtex download

Edited books

  • Middleton S & James Shaw (Ed.) (2017) Market Ethics and Practices, c.1300–1850. Routledge. RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles


  • Shaw J (2022) Reputation, Trust and Credit In Reinke-Williams T (Ed.), A Cultural History of Shopping: A cultural history of shopping in the early modern age (pp. 169-190). London: Bloomsbury Academic. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Shaw JE (2018) Women, Credit and Dowry in Early Modern Italy In Dermineur E (Ed.), Women and Credit in Pre-Industrial Europe, 1400-1800 (pp. 173-202). Turnhout: Brepols. View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Shaw JE & Middleton S (2017) Introduction: Markets, Ethics, Practices In Middleton S & Shaw JE (Ed.), Market Ethics and Practices, c. 1300–1850 Routledge RIS download Bibtex download
  • Shaw JE (2011) Interessi privati e polizia dei mercati a Venezia, sec. XVI-XVII In Antonielli L (Ed.), La polizia del lavoro: il definirsi di un ambito di controllo (Messina, 30 novembre-1 dicembre 2007) (pp. 23-36). Soveria Mannelli: Rubbettino. RIS download Bibtex download
  • (2011) Keeping shop. (pp. 53-78). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Shaw J & Welch E (2011) MAKING AND MARKETING MEDICINE IN RENAISSANCE FLORENCE Introduction and Acknowledgements, MAKING AND MARKETING MEDICINE IN RENAISSANCE FLORENCE (pp. 17-+). RIS download Bibtex download
  • (2011) Medicines. (pp. 233-289). RIS download Bibtex download
  • (2011) People and their Purchases. (pp. 81-122). RIS download Bibtex download
  • (2011) Recovering debts. (pp. 123-156). RIS download Bibtex download
  • (2011) Sugar and spice. (pp. 191-231). RIS download Bibtex download
  • (2011) The shop and the city. (pp. 31-51). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Shaw J & Welch E (2011) The Shop and the Court Epilogue, MAKING AND MARKETING MEDICINE IN RENAISSANCE FLORENCE (pp. 291-312). RIS download Bibtex download
  • (2011) Wax. (pp. 159-189). RIS download Bibtex download
  • Shaw JE (2006) Liquidation or Certification? Small Claims Disputes and Retail Credit in Seventeenth-Century Venice In Blondé B, Stabel P & Stobart J (Ed.), Buyers and Sellers: Retail circuits and practices in medieval and early modern Europe (pp. 277-296). Brepols Publishers RIS download Bibtex download
  • Shaw JE (2006) Institutional Controls and the Retail of Paintings: The Painters' Guild of Early Modern Venice In Marchi ND & Miegroet HJV (Ed.), Mapping markets for paintings in Europe 1450-1750 (pp. 107-122). Brepols Pub RIS download Bibtex download
  • Shaw JE (2004) Justice in the Marketplace: Corruption at the Giustizia Vecchia in Early Modern Venice In Goldgar A & Frost RI (Ed.), Institutional culture in early modern society (pp. 281-316). Leiden: Brill Academic Publishing. RIS download Bibtex download

Book reviews

Research group

Research supervision

I welcome applications from postgraduate students with an interest in the history of early modern Italy, particularly projects adopting social, economic and legal approaches.

Current Students

Primary Supervisor

Second Supervisor

All current students

Completed Students
  • Philip Back - ‘If you build it, they will come': the origins of Scotland’s Country Parks.
  • Richard Scott (second supervisor) - Dreams and Passions in Revolutionary England.

Find out more about PhD study in History

Teaching activities


  • HST202 - Historians and History
  • HST2010 - The Myth of Venice
  • HST3085/86 - Art, Power and History: Ideals and Reality in Renaissance Florence
  • HST3304 - Debt, Money and Morality


  • HST6055 - Microhistory and the History of Everyday Life
Professional activities and memberships

Administrative roles:

I am currently the Director of Postgraduate Studies for the History Department.

Previously, I have served as Exams Officer, Senior Tutor, Level 3 Tutor and Unfair Means Officer.