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Massimo Montanari

Emeritus Professor

Alma Mater Studiorum - Università di Bologna


Keywords: Food history Rural history Medieval economic history

He devoted his research to two main fields of interest, strictly linked to each other: agrarian history and food history, thought of as preferential ways of access for reconstructing medieval society as a whole: economic and social structures (work, power, property), concrete and material aspects of daily life, cultural values, mentality. Inside this frame, a special resonance has been obtained by his studies on food history, seen as a total history, involving economy, politics and culture.

He has furthermore studied significant aspects of the history of Emilia-Romagna region, directing research projects and publishing studies, particularly on the history of Imola.

Montanari's researches on food history move, at first, in the frame of agrarian history, with a particular regard to peasant world and the early Middle Ages. His first book, L'alimentazione contadina nell'alto Medioevo, published by Liguori (Napoli) in 1979, traces a general picture of the topic, starting from the landscape and economic patterns, as to arrive to the ways of consumption and their social representation. The following Alimentazione e cultura nel Medioevo (Roma-Bari, Laterza, 1988) is particularly devoted to the ideological and mental aspects of table behaviours. Convivio (Laterza, 1989) is on the social aspects of the civilisation of the table, and the value of food as an instrument of communication (on the same line, two modern and contemporary extensions: Nuovo convivio, Laterza 1991; Convivio oggi, Laterza 1992). A wide resonance, with many translations in different languages, had the synthetic study La fame e l'abbondanza. Storia dell'alimentazione in Europa, published by Laterza in 1993. In 1995 he published a book for children, Il pentolino magico, dealing with the history of food culture (Laterza). Together with Jean-Louis Flandrin he edited a Storia dell'alimentazione to which dozens of european and american scholars partecipated (1996). With Alberto Capatti he wrote La cucina italiana. Storia di una cultura (Laterza, 1999). He edited the volume Il mondo in cucina. Storia, identità, scambi, published in 2002 by Laterza. With Françoise Sabban he directed the Atlante dell'alimentazione e della gastronomia, in two volumes, published in 2004 by Utet (second edition, 2006, with a different title: Storia e geografia dell'alimentazione). In 2004 he published Bologna grassa. La costruzione di un mito (Bologna, Clueb) and a historical-anthropological essay on food culture: Il cibo come cultura (Laterza). In 2008 he published a research dealing with the relationship between high and low cultures, centred on the analysis of a famous Italian proverb (Il formaggio con le pere. La storia in un proverbio, Laterza publishers). In 2009 he published Il riposo della polpetta e altre storie intorno al cibo (Laterza), a collection of short essays in a divulgative shape. In 2010, again by Laterza,is published L’identità italiana in cucina, a cultural-political reflection on the existence – historically deeply rooted – of an Italian identity founded on the sharing of tastes and food practices. In 2012 Gusti del Medioevo. I prodotti, la cucina, la tavola. In 2015, by Rizzoli, Mangiare da cristiani, a study of the relationship between food culture and religious tradition in European history. In 2016, by Laterza, Il sugo della storia.

In parallel with his studies on food culture, Montanari has developed his researches in the field of agrarian history. His main topics have been the manorial system and economy, ways and production systems, peasant life and agrarian contracts. After L'azienda curtense in Italia. Proprietà della terra e lavoro contadino nei secoli VIII-XI (written with B. Andreolli, Bologna, Clueb, 1983) he has collected many papers in different volumes: Campagne medievali, Einaudi, Torino 1984; Contadini e città tra Langobardia e Romania, Salimbeni, Firenze, 1988; Uomini, terre, boschi nell'Occidente medievale, Catania, Cooperativa universitaria editrice, 1992; Contadini di Romagna nel Medioevo, Bologna, Clueb, 1994. Other papers have been published in miscellaneous volumes and historical reviews.

In 2002 he has published (Laterza) a reference book on medieval history (Storia medievale) written in collaboration with Giuseppe Albertoni, Tiziana Lazzari and Giuliano Milani.

Among the studies centred on the regional territory of Emilia-Romagna, one must quote the miscellaneous volume edited on La storia di Imola. Dai primi insediamenti all'ancien régime (La Mandragora, 2000) and the direction of a wide interdisciplinary research on Imola, il comune, le piazze (and the omonimous volume, edited with T. Lazzari, 2003).

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