Early Modern Historian Francesca Trivellato Appointed to the Faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study

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Francesca Trivellato, one of the foremost historians of economic, social, and cultural history of the early modern period, has been appointed to the Faculty of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, effective July 1, 2018. Trivellato, who is a former Hans Kohn Member (2012) in the School, is currently the Barton M. Biggs Professor of History at Yale University. She succeeds Professor Emeritus Jonathan Israel, who has served on the Faculty since 2001.

A leading historian of early modern Italy and continental Europe, Trivellato has made significant and groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of the organization and culture of the marketplace in the pre-industrial world. Trivellato’s original and imaginative research has revitalized the study of early economic history, and her influential work on cross-cultural trade intersects the fields of European, Jewish, Mediterranean, and global history, religion, and capitalism.

“We are extremely pleased that Professor Trivellato will be joining the School of Historical Studies,” said Patrick Geary, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the School of Historical Studies. “The breadth of her interests, her leadership in the profession, and her energy and enthusiasm all indicate that she will be a stimulating, supportive, and generous presence at the Institute for Advanced Study, and a most worthy successor in early modern studies to Professors Sir John Elliott and Jonathan Israel.”

Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director of the Institute and Leon Levy Professor, added, “Francesca is an extraordinary historian whose transformational work advances the frontiers of knowledge in early modern studies and creates new paths of research in the field. We are thrilled to welcome Francesca Trivellato to the Faculty of the Institute.”

Of her appointment, Trivellato said, “This is the opportunity of a lifetime––one that I could have never foreseen and that I am humbled and excited to have been offered.”

A world-renowned scholar in the field, Trivellato has published extensively on early modern Italian history, Jewish history, religion and trade, and trans-regional familial networks. In her first book, Fondamenta dei vetrai: Lavoro, tecnologia e mercato a Venezia tra Sei e Settecento (Donzelli, 2000), Trivellato investigated the transformation of Venetian glass in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the city was a major technological hub producing glass beads, bottles, mirrors, lamps, and other objects that were exported throughout the Mediterranean and fueled the Atlantic trade in African slaves and North American beaver fur. Trivellato’s thorough examination of the adaptive changes the Venetian glass sector underwent during the last two centuries before the industrial revolution yielded novel insights into the history of technology, craft guilds, women’s labor, and colonial trade.

Taking an innovative approach to the study of cross-cultural trade in her second book, The Familiarity of Strangers: The Sephardic Diaspora, Livorno, and Cross-Cultural Trade in the Early Modern Period (Yale University Press, 2009), Trivellato blended archival research with historical narrative and economic analysis to understand how a small group of Sephardic Jews based in Livorno, Tuscany, traded in regions near and far in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the work, Trivellato tested assumptions about ethnic and religious trading diasporas and networks of exchange and trust. Her extensive research in international archives—including over 10,000 merchants’ letters written between 1704 and 1746—challenged common assumptions about the business relations between Jews and non-Jews across the Mediterranean, Atlantic Europe, and the Indian Ocean. Trivellato’s analysis uncovered instances in which business cooperation between strangers relied on language, customary norms, and social networks more than the progressive rise of state and legal institutions. This extraordinary work garnered much acclaim, including the 2010 Leo Gershoy Award for the most outstanding work published in English on any aspect of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European history, awarded by the American Historical Association, and was the co-winner of the 2010 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award for best book in Early Modern and Modern Jewish History published in English between 2006 and 2010, awarded by the Association of Jewish Studies. It was also on the long list for the 2010 Cundill Prize in History given by McGill University.

In addition to these two fundamental books in the field, Trivellato’s contribution to historical scholarship extends to over fifty edited volumes, book chapters, and journal articles. She recently completed The Promise and Peril of Credit: What a Forgotten Legend about Jews and Finance Tells us About the Making of European Commercial Society (Princeton University Press, forthcoming), a novel account of the excitement and fears that accompanied the rise of impersonal credit markets from the commercial revolution of the Middle Ages to the triumph of industrial capitalism. In recent writings Trivellato has also explored the history of maritime and commercial law, Renaissance Italy and the Muslim Mediterranean, and the merits and pitfalls of microhistory and global history.

Trivellato is currently working on designing a digital platform for the analysis and visualization of the longest and most homogenous series of business contracts from pre-industrial Europe: roughly 5,000 limited partnerships registered in Florence from 1445 to 1808.

Trivellato earned a B.A. from Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italy (1995), a Ph.D. in Economic and Social History from the Università Luigi Bocconi, Milan, Italy (1999), and a Ph.D. in History from Brown University (2004). From 2001–03 she was Assistant Professor of Early Modern European History at Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia. Trivellato joined the faculty of Yale University in 2004 as Assistant Professor of History, and she became Professor in 2007. During her career at Yale University, she was named the Frederick W. Hilles Professor of History in 2012 and recently became the Barton M. Biggs Professor of History (2017). Trivellato has also held visiting appointments at various institutions, including the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris (2010, 2017), the California Institute of Technology (2012), and the Paris Institute of Political Studies (2016).

Trivellato and her work have been recognized with numerous honors and fellowships. In addition to her membership in the School of Historical Studies, Trivellato has held a Fulbright Scholarship (1996–97) and fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (2006­–07), the American Council of Learned Societies (2006–07), the American Academy in Berlin (2013), and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2012–13). Trivellato is on the editorial and advisory boards of many leading publications in the field, including the American Historical Review, the Journal of Economic History, Jewish Social Studies, and Trame Globali.


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