Contributed by Niamh Cullen
It feels a little strange being a twentieth-century historian in Florence, when the city is imbued everywhere with such a strong sense of a much older past. Walking around the centro storico, everywhere you look you see medieval towers, Renaissance palazzi, piazzas, cathedrals, all crowding around churches, statues… you get the idea. And so, even though I’m spending some time in Florence to do research for a project on 1950s and 1960s Italian history, I realised pretty soon that I was going to have to go a little farther back to really understand the city I was staying in.
As part of this ongoing side-project, I came across a small, slim book in the Uffizi Gallery shop called Giovanni and Lusanna. Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence, by American historian Gene Brucker (Berkeley, 2003). First published in 1986, when micro-history was beginning to come into vogue in historical writing – Carlo Ginzburg’s classic study of a sixteenth century miller and his world, The Cheese and the Worms was published in 1976 – the book is a study of a case brought by Lusanna, a widow from a modest background against wealthy banker Giovanni della Casa. According to Lusanna, Giovanni married her in secret. She brought a case against him after learning that he had contracted another marriage with a noblewoman, alleging that his marriage to her made him a bigamist. Read more