Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Monson on Crime in early modern Italy

In 2016, Craig A. Monson, Washington University in St. Louis, published Habitual Offenders: A True Tale of Nuns, Prostitutes, and Murderers in Seventeenth-century Italy with the University of Chicago Press. From the publisher:
In April 1644, two nuns fled Bologna’s convent for reformed prostitutes. A perfunctory archiepiscopal investigation went nowhere, and the nuns were quickly forgotten. By June of the next year, however, an overwhelming stench drew a woman to the wine cellar of her Bolognese townhouse, reopened after a two-year absence—where to her horror she discovered the eerily intact, garroted corpses of the two missing women. 
Drawing on over four thousand pages of primary sources, the intrepid Craig A. Monson reconstructs this fascinating history of crime and punishment in seventeenth-century Italy. Along the way, he explores Italy’s back streets and back stairs, giving us access to voices we rarely encounter in conventional histories: prostitutes and maidservants, mercenaries and bandits, along with other “dubious” figures negotiating the boundaries of polite society. Painstakingly researched and breathlessly told, Habitual Offenders will delight historians and true-crime fans alike.
Praise for the book:

"Monson's Habitual Offenders is an enthralling amalgam of sex, violence, and scholarship. At the center of the story are the abduction and murder of two reformed prostitute nuns in Bologna in April of 1644. From this relatively banal event, the ramifications spread ever more widely, involving priests, nobles, cardinals, a king, and finally the pope himself. The most harrowing chapter of the story describes in detail the judicial murder of a prisoner by the illegal use of enhanced interrogation techniques. Plus ça change. . . ." –Frederick Hammond

"A box overflowing with exquisite linens and lace, a faux-marble cupboard with a cat painted on the side, and a red leather, reliquary crucifix whose ‘top’ had to be rescued from the convent sewer: Monson’s latest foray into the archives plunges readers into an early modern world that pullulates with signifying objects. Their meanings unfold in the long series of investigations that follow on the murder of two remarkable women, former prostitutes become nuns whose flirtatious acumen as laundresses kept an admiring clientele crowding the convent gate. In reconstructing their story, Monson delivers cut-to-the-quick truths about survival strategies for individuals and families, both great and small, caught in networks from Bologna, through Venice and papal Rome, reaching as far as Mazarin and the king of France." –Alison K. Frazier

 “Monson is both a careful historian and a compelling narrator, helping us delve deeply into the daily lives of seventeenth-century Italians from all regions and walks of life. What emerges is a page-turner of a whodunit made especially compelling by Monson’s extraordinary and subtle ability to convey the diverse personalities of his many historical subjects and to plunge his reader into the world of early modern Italian culture.” –Andrew Dell’Antonio


Further information is available here.

No comments: