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William Caferro

Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of History

William Caferro specializes in the history of medieval and Renaissance Italy. His research has focused on the transition from the medieval to Renaissance periods, on ascertaining the distinction between the two, particularly with regard to economic forces. How did the Renaissance city-state differ from its medieval counterpart (if indeed it differed)? Caferro is author of Mercenary Companies and the Decline of Siena (Johns Hopkins, 1998) and John Hawkwood, English Mercenary in Fourteenth Century Italy (Johns Hopkins, 2006). John Hawkwood won the Otto Grundler Prize from the International Medieval Congress as the best book in medieval studies (2008). He is co-author of The Spinelli: Fortunes of a Renaissance Family (Penn State, 2001) and co-editor of The Unbounded Community: Papers in Christian Ecumenism in Honor of Jaroslav Pelikan (Routledge, 1996). His most recent book Contesting the Renaissance (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010) traces the meaning and use of the term "Renaissance" in the major debates of the historiography.

Professor Caferro’s current book project examines the economic and cultural effects of warfare on fourteenth and fifteenth-century Florence. It tests whether war, for all its evils, may have helped engender a Renaissance “ethic” in that city. Fellowships from Villa I Tatti (Harvard Center for Renaissance Studies) and the Institute for Advanced Study have helped support Professor Caferro’s scholarship. Caferro has been named a 2010 Fellow by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He will use the funding to complete his book project on the intersection of war, culture and economy in Italy during the time of the Black Death.

Professor Caferro teaches surveys of Western Civilization and medieval Europe, and upper level courses in pre-modern European economic history, Fourteenth Century English literature and history (“Poetry and Pestilence’) and European historiography. Caferro is recipient of several teaching awards, including the Madison Sarratt Prize for Excellence in Teaching at Vanderbilt.