Eric Nemarich

Eric Nemarich

Graduate Fellow
Petty Officials and Political Culture in Bologna and Lucca, c.1325-1400


Eric hails from the Connecticut shoreline and graduated from Georgetown University in 2014. In that year, he joined the History Department at Harvard University, working with Daniel Lord Smail. After a series of twists and turns, catalyzed by a trip to Umbria, Eric set his sights on late medieval Italy. At Harvard, he has been a Teaching Fellow for courses ranging from “Vengeance and the Law in Medieval Europe” to “The Fall of the Roman Empire." He also maintains an active interest in the subject of his undergraduate research, musical life in thirteenth-century Paris. Outside Harvard, Eric sings tenor in a Cambridge-based early music choir and is an avid runner. He looks forward to exploring the Tuscan countryside while based at I Tatti.

Project Summary

Starting in the late thirteenth century, city-states across northern and central Italy abandoned popular government for the signoria, personal rule by a lord. Eric’s dissertation considers how petty officials—low-level functionaries in service to the law courts—shaped this process in two such cities, Bologna and Lucca. He argues that petty officials played a crucial role in these controversial regimes: it was through the identities of petty officials that signorial governments delineated a sphere of political action that was—or appeared to be—insulated from corrupting influences. The distinction between public and private that was emerging in this period was articulated through the medium of petty officials. In their routine duties of issuing judicial summonses, arresting debtors, seizing property on behalf of private creditors, and collecting public exactions, petty officials became the dynamic point of contact between subjects and the signorial state. It was through the daily actions of petty officials that signori could establish and maintain their contested legitimacy. However, as the collective face of the new signorial state, petty officials also drew attention to structural contradictions in these problematic regimes. Even as petty officials were used to mark the boundary of the state, they could blur this boundary. Eric’s dissertation explores how petty officials influenced the development of "tyrannical" government across the calamitous fourteenth century.