Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Abandoned Children of the Italian Renaissance: Orphan Care in Florence and Bologna

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Abandoned Children of the Italian Renaissance: Orphan Care in Florence and Bologna

Article excerpt

Abandoned Children of the Italian Renaissance: Orphan Care in Florence and Bologna By Nicholas Terpstra. [The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, 123rd Series (2005), Nr. 4.] (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 2005. Pp. xiv, 349. $50.00.)

Historians of the Italian Renaissance, and those of the more general history of early modern Europe, will be pleased to know that Nicholas Terpstra has yet another fine book examining the intersection of state-building and religion in the development of social services. Previously, Terpstra has enlightened the subject of confraternities and the social order in Bologna; since 2000 he has expanded his field of inquiry to include Florence.This recent volume is a truly superb, even magisterial comparison of the development of orphanages in Florence and Bologna in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

We have known for some time now that Europe's population in the early modern period was quite young-half under the age of fifteen, one third under the age of eight. With such a large percentage of children, given the combination of subsistence crises, economic dislocations, the regular occurrence of diseases, faced by all of society, the plight of abandoned children was recognized as a grave problem from the high Middle Ages on. In a family-oriented culture, it was logical that the creation of surrogate families would provide the model for coping with the numbers of orphaned children, charity the motivation. Initially, shelter was on a small scale, centered on a workshop or a woman's home, but by the sixteenth century these arrangements, as well as foundling hospitals, had given way to orphanages. Though these institutions could not recreate love, and although many children died within their walls, Terpstra elucidates a real and tenacious effort on the part of religious men and women, secular and clerical, princes and artisans, in these Catholic cities that saved vulnerable young lives.

Florence and Bologna both created networks of homes that co-ordinated a web of care but they did so differently. In the Medici grand duchy, the focus was on development of a statewide, rational, and efficient bureaucratic structure, under the authority of the grand dukes for the benefit of all subjects. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.