TERPSTRA, NICHOLAS Contact Areas of Interest

Terpstra, Nicholas
Department of History
100 St George Street, Room 2074
Toronto, ON  M5S 3G3
t: 416-585-4428
e: nicholas.terpstra@utoronto.ca
  • Prostitution in sixteenth century Florence, with an emphasis on tracing legal, sensory, and geographical dimensions in the conjunction of sex and the sacred
  • Exile, expulsion, and religious refugees in the Reformation


Civic religion and civil society in Renaissance and Reformation Europe; intersections of politics, religion, charity, and gender in urban society. In the past few years, I’ve focused in particular on how Renaissance cities handled orphans and abandoned children, and on how charitable aid became a key area of dispute between authoritarian and republican groups in the political struggles of the sixteenth century. A forthcoming study will look at how women figured in social welfare programs as both the recipients and the givers of charitable aid, and also on how the city of Bologna in particular devised a series of progressive welfare programs in the sixteenth century, including unemployment insurance, maternity benefits, and savings plans for workers.

Primary Teaching

  • History 1221: Social History of Early Modern Europe
  • History 1222: Ritual in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe

Selected Publications

Cultures of Charity:  Women, Politics, and the Reform of Poor Relief in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge:  Harvard University Press, 2013)

Lost Girls: Sex and Death in Renaissance Florence (Johns Hopkins: 2010)

Abandoned Children of the Italian Renaissance: Orphan Care in Florence and Bologna (Johns Hopkins: 2005)

Lay Confraternities and Civic Religion in Renaissance Bologna (Cambridge: 1995). Awarded the Howard R. Marraro Prize of the Society for Italian Historical Studies.

Edited Works

Faith’s Boundaries: Laity and Clergy in Early Modern Confraternities (Turnhout:  Brepols, 2013)

The Art of Executing Well: Rituals of Execution in Renaissance Italy (Truman State: 2008)

Sociability & Its Discontents: Social Capital & Civil Society in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe with N. Eckstein (Brepols: 2008)

The Politics of Ritual Kinship: Confraternities and Social Order in Early Modern Italy (Cambridge: 2000)