Academic year
2021/2022 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Course code
SIE008 (AF:366754 AR:195288)
On campus classes
ECTS credits
Degree level
Corso di Perfezionamento
Educational sector code
1st Semester
Course year
Go to Moodle page
The course is part of the semester courses offered by the School for International Education (SiE) at Ca' Foscari University.

It aims at providing the main features and theoretical framework of the history of Venice and the Venetian state.
- Knowledge of the main features of the history of Venice and the Venetian State;
- Ability to analyse and discuss historical sources;
- Ability to identify and evaluate bibliographical sources to face historical research on a topic;
- Ability to develop written and oral analysis on historical topics.
The course is addressed to students coming from all study areas. No prerequisites required.
At the end of the 7th century Venice started to separate itself from the Byzantine influence and become an independent city-state. During the High Middle Ages the group of islands in the northern Adriatic sea that constitute the first nucleus of the city had been part of the exarchate of Italy, but by that time the commercial fortunes of the inhabitants of the lagoon had proved successful enough to allow them to aim to independence. Thus, at the end of the first millennium the leading role of Venice in connecting Europe with the near East, helped by a privileged relationship with Constantinople, was already established. At that moment started a complex (and in some aspects contradictory) history that lasted until the self-proclaimed fall of the Republic in 1797.
The course will investigate and discuss the main features of this long process, and the growth that during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance transformed Venice into one of the main political and naval powers, trade and financial hubs, as well as social and intellectual centres in the Mediterranean basin and Europe. The original city became a proper state and if initially it aimed mainly to sea trading and the Eastern Mediterranean (thanks to its overseas dominions), by the 15th-16th centuries its interest strongly shifted to Italy and Europe, when, after the conquest of the Terraferma State, Venice became one of the main players in the European arena.
The aim of the course is then to explore this history in a perspective that links institutional, social and economic aspects from the Middle Ages to the end of the Republic, with a special focus on the long Renaissance period (14th – mid 16th centuries) at the apex of the Venetian power.
Examples and sources (examined alongside their English translation) will introduce the focal elements and turning points that marked the political and institutional development of Venetian history. Aspects such as the role of manufacturing and trade, of the foreigners living in the city, as well as the peculiarities of the Venetian administrative and bureaucratic system in its dominions will also be examined. Lastly, a special focus will be given to the consequences Venice faced after the birth of the Ottoman empire, the increased role played by other European powers in the Italian peninsula, and the discovery of the new oceanic routes at the beginning of the modern era. Elements which will led to a slow decay of its international role, and its withdraw from the international arena to focus on the Italian stage in the later early modern period.

Topics discussed in the course:
- The “myth” of the birth of Venice and the relationship with Byzantium;
- The trade role in the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages and the 4th crusade;
- The institutional structure of the Venetian Republic. Part 1: the doge, the civic bodies and the representation of the State;
- The institutional structure of the Venetian State. Part 2: the “closing” (serrata) of the Great Council and the major governing bodies (Great Council, Senate, Council of Ten);
- The Venetian role in the Mediterranean basin and Europe: a long run perspective (10th-18th centuries);
- Venice as the hub of the Mediterranean: a trading perspective;
- Venice as a manufacturing centre;
- The da Mar State (overseas dominions);
- The Terraferma and the rise of Venice as a State in the European context;
- The war of the League of Cambrai and the reform of the State during the 16th century;
- Cosmopolitan Venice: minorities (“other Italians”, Germans, Greeks, Dalmatians, Jews, Ottomans etc.), foreign merchants and immigrants;
- The slow losing of power during the 17th century;
- The end of the Republic (the 18th century).
- A Companion to Venetian History, 1400-1797, E.R. Dursteler (ed.), Brill, Leiden 2013; the following chapters:
a) A. Viggiano, Politics and Constitution, pp. 47-84
b) M. Knapton, The Terraferma State, pp. 85-124
c) B. Arbel, Venice’s Maritime Empire in the Early Modern Period, pp. 125-253

- Venice. A Documentary History, 1450-1630, D. Chambers and B. Pullan (eds.), Blackwell, Oxford 1992; [selected sources to be indicated during the course]

- Venice and the Veneto during the Renaissance: the Legacy of Benjamin Kohl, M. Knapton, J.E. Law and A. Smith (eds.), FUP, Firenze 2014 (open access edition: URL <http://www.rm.unina.it/rmebook/index.php?mod=none_Legacy_Kohl> ;); the following chapters:
a) B.G. Kohl, The Serrata of the Greater Council of Venice, 1282-1323, pp. 3-34
b) B.G. Kohl, Renaissance Padua as Kunstwerk: Policy and Custom in the Governance of a Renaissance City, pp. 187-196

- Venice: cità excelentissima. Selections from the Renaissance Diaries of Marin Sanudo, H. Labalme and L. Sanguineti White (eds.), Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 2008; [selected sources to be indicated during the course]

- Venice Reconsidered. The History and Civilization of an Italian City-State, 1297-1797, J. Jeffreis Martin and D. Romano (eds.), Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London 20032; the following chapters:
a) D. Pincus, Was there Republicanism in the Renaissance Republics? Venice after Agnadello, pp. 137-167
b) J.S. Grubb, Elite Cizitens, pp. 339-364

- F.C. Lane, Venice. A Maritime Republic, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London 1973. [whole book]

Other bibliographic hints regarding specific topics, as well as the selection of translated sources will be indicated during the lessons and listed in the course’s Moodle page.
Written and oral.
Students will be asked to write a short paper (5-6pp. ca.) on a topic of their choice among those analysed during the course, and in the bibliography. The paper is to be sent at least one week before the final oral exam, which will consist of an interview on the student’s paper itself, and on the themes discussed during the lessons.
Lectures. Students are invited to comment and discuss the topics analysed in class.
All lessons will be taught in English. In case of sources written in Latin, Italian, and/or Venetian language, an English translation will be provided (e.g. see sources chosen among those in the collections indicated in the following bibliography).

Based on the evolution of the current pandemic situation, if the circumstances and the updated regulations will make it possible a field trip (e.g. to the State Archives of Venice and/or to the main historical areas of the city) might be organised as part of a lesson or as a voluntary additional activity.
written and oral
Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 22/09/2021