Eugenio Menegon

Eugenio Menegon

Berenson Fellow
The Invisible City: A Global Microhistory of Italians and Other Europeans in Early Modern Beijing


Eugenio Menegon was educated in Chinese language and history at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, Renmin University in Beijing, and the University of California at Berkeley. He teaches Chinese and World History at Boston University, where he has directed the Center for the Study of Asia. His last book, Ancestors, Virgins, and Friars: Christianity as a Local Religion in Late Imperial China, was the recipient of the Joseph Levenson Prize of the Association for Asian Studies, and he is currently co-investigator for the 'China Historical Christian Database (1550-1950)'. In recent years, he has held fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, and the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies.

Project Summary

The study of the Catholic mission in Beijing is an ideal arena to uncover the deep structures of Chinese-Western socio-cultural and economic relations in early modern times, with a special emphasis on how individuals from the Italian states and envoys from the Holy See developed their activities in China. This project mainly focuses on the Qing imperial court, where missionaries worked as scientists and artisans, seen as an urban microcosm, a node in a vast planetary network, and the site of informal social networks. The missionaries nested within these networks to pursue their interests (primary for them, evangelization), and stubbornly resisted bureaucratic control and autocratic hegemony, using their professional skills and gift-giving to obtain patronage. With assistance from digital humanities methods, we can expand the analysis of this group into a larger network of individuals and institutions, which extends from the Qing court to the entire world, and Italy in particular.