Nicholas Terpstra

Nicholas Terpstra

Director’s Appointment
Space, Sense, and Movement in Early Modern Tuscany


Nicholas Terpstra is Professor of History at the University of Toronto. His research lies at the intersection of politics, religion, gender, and charity, with a focus on issues dealing with poverty, institutional structures of charity, and urban space & the senses in Renaissance Italy. Recent books include Lost Girls: Sex & Death in Renaissance Florence (2010), Cultures of Charity: Women, Politics, and the Reform of Poor Relief in Renaissance Italy (2013), Religious Refugees of the Early Modern World (2015), and Mapping Space, Sense, and Movement in Florence (2016). He has held visiting professor positions at various universities and at Villa I Tatti. From 2012-17, he was Editor of Renaissance Quarterly.

Project Summary

Nicholas Terpstra will be working on two projects while at Villa I Tatti. One will explore the ambivalences around toleration and religious and racial co-existence that we can see in the early development of Livorno from the late sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth centuries. The Medici sought to build a free port that would attract international merchant capital and serve as a base for merchant and military fleets; this project explores how they used space, sense, ritual, and charity to shape and channel relations between Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The second project will be using and expanding the DECIMA (Digitally Encoded Census Information and Mapping Archive) project, a digital mapping initiative that geo-references sixteenth and seventeenth century census data to a 1584 aerial view of Florence in order to visualize social, cultural, economic, and demographic realities and developments. He will be using DECIMA to conduct research on questions having to do with health, labour, gender, and space in the early modern city, and will also be exploring how DECIMA can function as a platform for other Florence-based interdisciplinary digital humanities projects.