28489 - History of Cities (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Sustainable cities Peace, justice and strong institutions

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

The student at the end of this module acquires knowledge of the main issues related to the history of Italian and European cities from the late antiquity to the early modern period, both in terms of general skills as one of the tools below for specific analysis, and ability to organize , collect and communicate complex information in a coherent form. The student acquires in-depth knowledge and specific lines of historical development and space of urban civilization, and the ability to identify the specific contribution that science can make in addressing historical issues and problems of interest to the community. Can communicate effectively specific contributions of general interest.

Course contents

The lectures will address some of the following topics:

1 - The two cities: Babel or Jerusalem?

2 - The city facing the 'barbarians’

3 - Bishops and patrons

4 - Idealising the city: the 'laudes civitatum’

5 - Medieval Bologna: city walls, towers, canals, and streets

6 - The city that attracts: students, workers, and the poor

7 - Between care and exclusion: hospitals and lazaretti

8 - Political rhetoric: war and peace

9 - The city gets information: spies and espionage

10 - The city of the mendicant Orders

11 - Communicating in the city: preaching and spectacles

12 - Jews in the city: from the condotta to the ghetto


For attending students:
During the lectures, a reader will be progressively composed with readings (about fifteen essays) and sources presented and discussed in the classroom in relation with the various topics considered. These materials will be made available online during the module and will constitute the basic text for the preparation of the exam. At the end of the module, the lecturer will provide the exact list of these sources and texts.

For non-attending students:
At the conclusion of the module, the lecturer will provide a specific list of the sources and texts (about fifteen essays) discussed during the lectures, indicating clearly which one must be studied also by non-attending students.
In addition to this, non-attending students must study in depth one of the proposed topics by reading one of the following books (other titles, also in English, can be agreed with the lecturer). Please inform the lecturer of your chosen book a few days before the exam.

G. Albini, Poveri e povertà nel Medioevo, Roma, Carocci, 2016

P. Delcorno, Lazzaro e il ricco epulone: metamorfosi di una parabola tra Quattro e Cinquecento, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2014

C. Frugoni, Storia di un giorno in una città medievale, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2016 (1° ed. 1997)

E. Loss, Officium spiarum: Spionaggio e gestione delle informazioni a Bologna (secoli XIII-XIV), Roma, Viella, 2020

M. Melchiorre, La via di Schenèr: Un’esplorazione storica nelle Alpi, Venezia, Marsilio, 2016 + A. Esch, Il traffico sui passi alpini nel Basso Medioevo, in Id., Mercenari, mercanti e pellegrini, Bellinzona: Casagrande, 1998, pp. 154-244

M. Montesano, Ai margini del Medioevo: storia culturale dell'alterità, Roma, Carocci, 2021

M.G. Muzzarelli, Pescatori di uomini: predicatori e piazze alla fine del Medioevo, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2005

A. Toaff, Il vino e la carne. Una comunità ebraica nel medioevo, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2007 (1st ed. 1989) (the book is available also in English as: Love, Work, and Death: Jewish Life in Medieval Umbria, Liverpool, 1996)

G. Todeschini, Gli ebrei nell'Italia medievale, Roma, Carocci, 2018

P. Ventrone, Teatro civile e sacra rappresentazione a Firenze nel Rinascimento, Firenze, Le Lettere, 2016 (pp. 1-272)

Teaching methods

For each topic discussed, the historiography and some textual or visual source will be presented. At the end of the module there will be a visit to some significant places in Bologna linked with the themes discussed during the lectures.

Assessment methods

Those who attend at least 75% of the lessons are considered to be attending students.

For attending students: Oral exam, on the topics presented in the lectures (corresponding to the selection of essays and sources available online) with the discussion of the relevant sources.

For non-attending students, the oral exam will focus on the themes discussed in the essays and sources indicated in the syllabus online, with a more in-depth discussion of the topics of the module, in connection with the book selected from the proposed bibliography.

The assessment will concentrate particularly on the skills displayed by the student in handling the sources and the secondary literature in the exam bibliography and his/her ability to find and use information and examples to explain and connect the various themes and problems addressed in the course.

The assessment will thus examine the student's:

- factual knowledge of the topics;
- ability to summarise and analyse themes and concepts;
- familiarity with the terminology associated with the topics and the ability to use it effectively.

Top marks will be awarded to a student displaying an overall understanding of the topics discussed during the lectures, combined with a critical approach to the material and a confident and effective use of the appropriate terminology.

Average marks will be awarded to a student who has memorized the main points of the course and is able to summarise them satisfactorily, while failing to display a complete command of the appropriate terminology.

Minimal and correct knowledge of the contents of the module, yet with lack of significant details and deficiencies in the use of the appropriate terminology will lead to barely sufficient marks.

A student will be deemed to have failed the exam if he/she displays significant errors in his/her understanding and fails to present the overall outlines of the subject, together with a poor command of the appropriate terminology.

The module (6CFU) is part of the integrated module "Storia regionale e civiltà urbana" C.I (1) LM. The final mark of a student that has this integrated course in his/her study plan results from the grade point average of the two exams ("Storia delle città" e "Storia dell'Emilia-Romagna nel Medioevo")

Teaching tools

During the lectures some source will be read and commented and key trends in the scholarship will be discussed, providing students with bibliographical references useful for further investigations.

Usually lectures will be supported by a PowerPoint. 

For what is possible, the materials (sources, essays, and PowerPoint) will be accessible on virtuale.unibo.it

Office hours

See the website of Pietro Delcorno