Professor Nicholas Terpstra, Moving Targets: Finding Young People in the Early Modern World: ICCEMS hybrid lecture, 2 July 2024

May 20, 2024

On behalf of the International Consortium of Centres for Early Modern Studies, the ANU Centre for Early Modern Studies is delighted to welcome Professor Nicholas Terpstra for a hybrid public lecture on 2 July, 2024.

Location: Online and in-person at the National Library of Australia, Canberra

Date: Tuesday 2 July, 6pm to 7pm AEST (UTC +10)

Details and bookings:


Moving Targets:  Finding Young People in the Early Modern World 

Where do we find youths in the early modern world?  Where did they find themselves?  Often it was on the road or on the seas, in motion from home to some other place or places, and seldom entirely by choice.  As we become more curious about global history and to seeing how Europeans of the 15th to 18th centuries encountered the world and were shaped by it, we’re drawn to the intersections of this mobility with gender and with race.  Much of what was new in early modern experience came first to and through young people, often as the involuntary agents of broader social and economic forces.  I’ll focus first on a few individuals or groups of young people from different parts of the world who demonstrate some of these realities.  I’ll then pull back and consider why looking more closely at these youths might reshape our understanding of the early modern period more generally.

About the Speaker

Nicholas Terpstra is Professor of History at the University of Toronto.  His primary area of research is early modern urban history, exploring both questions at the intersection of politics, religion, gender, and charity, and issues having to do with space and sense. Recent works include Senses of Space in the Early Modern World (Cambridge: 2023), Lost and Found:  Locating Foundlings in the Early Modern World (Rome: 2023), and Religious Refugees in the Early Modern World: An Alternative History of the Reformation (Cambridge: 2015). Earlier works, including the award-winning Cultures of Charity:  Women and the Reform of Poor Relief in Renaissance Italy (Harvard: 2013) and the microhistory Lost Girls: Sex and Death in Renaissance Florence (Johns Hopkins: 2012), explored how the politics of charity frequently silenced women’s voices.   

In 2011 he launched the DECIMA (Digitally Encoded Census Information & Mapping Archive) Project an online digital map of Renaissance Florence that has received grants from SSHRC and the AHRC (UK).  Employing early modern census data and maps, the tool tracks and geo-references occupation, gender, and wealth patterns. DECIMA has trained dozens of student researchers while moving to the goal of producing 3D maps that convey what it was like to walk around a Renaissance city, hearing its sounds, moving through its buildings and seeing its artwork. See: N. Terpstra & C. Rose (ed), Mapping Space, Sense, and Movement in Florence: Historical GIS and the Early Modern City (Routledge, 2016). 

Terpstra was President of the Renaissance Society of America from 2022-24 and has just been appointed Provost of Trinity College in the University of Toronto.

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