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Cultures of Charity: Women, Politics, and the Reform of Poor Relief in Renaissance Italy

by Nicholas Terpstra

Renaissance Italians pioneered radical changes in ways of helping the poor, including orphanages, workhouses, pawnshops, and women's shelters. Nicholas Terpstra shows that gender was the key factor driving innovation. Most of the recipients of charity were women. The most creative new plans focused on features of women's poverty like illegitimate births, hunger, unemployment, and domestic violence. Signal features of the reforms, from forced labor to new instruments of saving and lending, were devised specifically to help young women get a start in life. Cultures of Charity is the first book to see women's poverty as the key factor driving changes to poor relief. These changes generated intense political debates as proponents of republican democracy challenged more elitist and authoritarian forms of government emerging at the time. Should taxes fund poor relief? Could forced labor help build local industry? Focusing on Bologna, Terpstra looks at how these fights around politics and gender generated pioneering forms of poor relief, including early examples of maternity benefits, unemployment insurance, food stamps, and credit union savings plans.

Religious Refugees in the Early Modern World

by Nicholas Terpstra

The religious refugee first emerged as a mass phenomenon in the late fifteenth century. Over the following two and a half centuries, millions of Jews, Muslims, and Christians were forced from their homes and into temporary or permanent exile. Their migrations across Europe and around the globe shaped the early modern world and profoundly affected literature, art, and culture. Economic and political factors drove many expulsions, but religion was the factor most commonly used to justify them. This was also the period of religious revival known as the Reformation. This book explores how reformers' ambitions to purify individuals and society fueled movements to purge ideas, objects, and people considered religiously alien or spiritually contagious. It aims to explain religious ideas and movements of the Reformation in nontechnical and comparative language.

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