Dr James Shaw
M.A. (Edin.), Ph.D. (E.U.I. Florence)
Senior Lecturer in History
Early Modern Italy; markets; law; email@example.com
+44 (0)114 22 22591 | Jessop West 3.06
Semester Two 2018-19: On Research Leave
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.
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.
Together with Dr Simon Middleton, 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.
I welcome applications from postgraduate students with an interest in the history of early modern Italy, particularly projects adopting social, economic and legal approaches.
'Liquidation or Certification? Small Claims Disputes and Retail Credit in Seventeenth-Century Venice' in Buyers and Sellers: Retail circuits and practices in medieval and early modern Europe eds. Bruno Blondé, Peter Stabel, Jon Stobart and Ilja Van Damme, Studies in European Urban History (1100-1800), (Turnhout, Belgium, Brepols, 2006).
This book brings together contributions from urban historians, social historians and art historians to explore the issues of exchange, shopping behaviour, social interactions, gender and physical space.
'Institutional Controls and the Retail of Paintings: The Painters' Guild of Early Modern Venice' in Mapping markets for paintings: Europe and the New World, 1450-1750, eds. Neil De Marchi and Hans J. Van Miegroet, (Turnhout, Belgium, Brepols, 2006).
Over the course of the fifteenth century easel paintings edged out tapestries, frescoes and wood inlay pictures on the walls of private dwellings. Millions of such paintings were produced in the period 1450-1800, in all shapes and sizes, and across the whole range of prices. Who bought them? How were they distributed? What place did they occupy among other "luxury" possessions? Such questions seem to require that visual culture be treated as an integral part of family spending and commercial pursuits. This volume is the outcome of a four-year collaboration between art historians, economists, social historians and museum professionals from the US, Australia and Europe; its aim was to map the new ground identified by these and related questions, in local contexts, but with comparative and longitudinal concerns constantly in mind. The result is an entirely new matrix of the business and artistic interactions through which visual cultures in early modern Europe were formed. The editors, Neil De Marchi and Hans J. Van Miegroet, an economist and an art historian, have collaborated across their disciplines for ten years. Here they have interspersed participants' essays with brief connecting observations, to produce a text that respects disciplinary expertise while making connections across locations and across time. Much has been written about European paintings; but how markets in paintings emerged, who they served, what roles and institutions were developed that enabled them to function effectively, and how exchange affected visual preferences, have not been studied in such a deliberately wide-angled, comparative way. Mapping Markets is not only a book about paintings, but a compendium of cross-disciplinary methods and insights. It charts the state of research in this trans-disciplinary field, identifies gaps, and poses questions for scholars and students wishing to pursue further the issues raised here.
'Justice in the Marketplace: Corruption at the Giustizia Vecchia in Early Modern Venice' in Institutional Culture in Early Modern Society, eds. Anne Goldgar and Robert I. Frost, (Leiden, Brill, 2004) pp. 281-316.
The essays in this volume take a fresh look at the history of institutions in the early modern world. Casting a broad look across a variety of institutions, from missionary societies to guilds, from lawcourts to academies, and exploring institutions across western Europe and Britain, the volume as a whole invites a newly comparative understanding of the nature of formal institutions in the period. By envisaging disparate institutions as having, to some degree, similar self-perceptions, strategies, and rituals, these essays begin to build up a picture of how early modern institutions functioned overall. The book will appeal to anyone interested in the social and culture history of early modern communities, as well as offering insights into the relationship of institutions and the developing state.
'Market Ethics and Credit Practices in Sixteenth-Century Tuscany', Renaissance Studies, 27(2) (2013), pp.236-252.
This paper examines the moral economy of mid-sixteenth-century Tuscany, with a focus on the everyday practices of credit and exchange. Supplications for justice addressed to the duke and redirected to the Mercanzia (Merchants' Court) provide rich evidence of the way that people negotiated the rules, ethics and practices of the market. The sources raise questions about the prices recorded in documents, since loans might be disguised as sales of goods, or incorporate the interest into the price. They also suggest that credit practices might be associated with a culture of gambling, where borrowers and lenders willingly took on additional risk. Poverty was a key reference among the mitigating circumstances appealed to by supplicants, and women were particularly prominent here. The paper focuses on the difficult structural conditions that might be faced by women, the legal protections that were available to them and the ways that these might be exploited.
'Writing to the Prince: Supplications, Equity, and Absolutism in Sixteenth-Century Tuscany', Past & Present, 215(1) (2012), pp.51-83.
Equity expressed the concept that because the general rules of law could not account for all the circumstances of particular cases, it might be necessary to bend or 'temper' the law for justice to be done. This paper examines supplications addressed to Duke Cosimo I in mid-sixteenth century Tuscany, as a case study in a wider question about the role of equity in state formation. Supplications were a key means by which absolutist princes of this period stamped their authority on the judicial system. Although in reality supplication was an increasingly bureaucratic process, the form of supplication and the principle of equity constructed the fiction of a personal (though hierarchical) relationship between individual subject and absolute ruler, establishing direct, personal bonds of loyalty. These principles, put into practice in Ducal Tuscany, were subsequently to receive their fullest articulation in Jean Bodin’s theory of justice and the state.
'Zanobi Machiavelli, Battista Strozzi and the high altar of the Badia Fiesolana', Burlington Magazine 153, no. 1305 (2011).
'Retail, Monopoly and Privilege: The Dissolution of the Fishmongers' Guild of Venice, 1599', Journal of Early Modern History 6, no. 4 (2002), pp. 396-427.
In 1599, centuries of tradition came to an end when the Venetian fishmongers' guild was dissolved. In the late sixteenth century, the government had increasingly adopted a position that linked retailers to the crime of "monopoly," abusing their position at the expense of consumers. However, this simplistic conception of economic behavior proved disastrously misguided, and only a few years later the guild had to be restored. This humiliating reversal of government policy led to an important reappraisal of the role of retail guilds, and nothing similar would be attempted until the eighteenth century.
In The Media
James is currently the Director of Postgraduate Studies for the History Department.
Previously, he has served as Exams Officer, Senior Tutor, Level 3 Tutor and Unfair Means Officer.