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New Medieval Books: Cleaning Up Renaissance Italy

Cleaning Up Renaissance Italy: Environmental Ideals and Urban Practice in Genoa and Venice

By Jane L. Stevens Crawshaw

Oxford University Press
ISBN: 978-0-19-886743-2

This book examines how Venice and Genoa dealt with environmental issues, including waste management, water supply and street congestion. It also reveals the mindset of the medieval Genoese and Venetians when it came to having a clean and healthy city.


This book bridges the histories of urban and natural space, studying cities in their wider contexts and highlighting the importance of the environment for the wellbeing of early modern society. The environmental ideals referred to in the title include those which relate to both built and natural settings. The reference to urban practices is not intended to suggest that the spatial unit of study here is limited by walls or other civic boundaries. Instead, the study is directed by what might be termed an urban gaze and dilates upon those environmental issues and concerns which were believed to be pertinent to the health and wellbeing of the city. The dynamics of ideal and practice in central squares and prominent streets are considered alongside spaces which were more hidden from view: dark, narrow alley ways and capacious subterranean drains. These places formed a vital part of the infrastructure of health, which was so central to the experience of life in the Renaissance city, and through which urban centres were connected with their wider settings.


Who is this book for?

Those interested in urban and environmental history during the Later Middle Ages / Renaissance era will find this book to be a good case study. It should also be a useful work for those studying the histories of Genoa and Venice.

The author

Jane Stevens Crawshaw is the Deputy Head for Strategy and Development at Oxford Brookes University, where her research focuses on the social, medical and environmental history of Renaissance Italy. Among her other works is Plague Hospitals: Public Health for the City in Early Modern Venice. You can also follow Jane on X/Twitter.


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