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Housecraft and Statecraft Domestic Service in Renaissance

Unlike modern households those of late medieval and early modern European society included many individuals not related by blood or marriage Prominent among these were domestic servants members of the lower classes whose duties ranged from managing of the household to raising the children Within the confines of the household the powerful and the powerless came together in complex and significant ways In Housecraft and Statecraft historian Dennis Romano examines the realities and significance of domestic service in what was arguably the most important city in fifteenth and sixteenth century Europe Venice Drawing on a variety of materials including humanist treatises on household management books of costumes civic statutes census data contracts wills and court records Romano paints a vivid picture of the conditions of domestic labor the difficult lives of servants the worries and concerns of masters and the ambivalent ways in which masters and servants interacted He also shows how servants especially gondoliers came to be seen and as symbols of their masters' statusHousecraft and Statecraft offers a unique perspective on Venice and Venetian society as the city evolved from a merchant dominated regime in the fifteenth century into an aristocratic oligarchy in the sixteenth It traces the growth within the elite of a new sense of hierarchy and honor At the same time it illuminates the strategies that servants developed to resist the ever powerful elite and in so doing demonstrates the centrality of domestic servants in the struggles between rich and poor in early modern Europe


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