Early Modern Interdisciplinary Graduate Forum

When and Where

Tuesday, February 28, 2023 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm
Victoria College Common Room
Victoria College
89 Charles St. W.


Rachel Stapleton
Eric Pecile


Early Modern Interdisciplinary Graduate Forum

Éric Pecile
“Generosity Competitions: Bologna’s 16th Century Welfare Market”
Dr. Rachel Stapleton
“Records of Employment: Luisa Sigea and Looking for Work in the 16th Century”

February 28 2023, 4:00 - 5:30pm.
Victoria College Common Room, 89 Charles St. W.

Our goal is to encourage early modern scholars to return to meeting in person, socialize, network, and become part of the early modern community in the Greater Toronto Area. Coffee and light snacks will be provided for all EMIGF events this year.
Can't attend in person? Register for online access.


Éric Pecile: "Generosity Competitions: Bologna’s 16th Century Welfare Market"

PhD Candidate, Department of History, University of Toronto

This paper examines the development of Bologna’s welfare state in the sixteenth century and explores how it became an economic space where political conflicts played out. Bologna’s economic policy remained unchanged from its capitalist beginnings, leaving public services like welfare largely unregulated from state control. In this environment, local government could open its own charitable alongside those opened by private individuals. With government split between papal and secular administrators, competition to offer the best charitable services was a way to sway public opinion in favour of either faction within Bologna’s regime. The case of Giovanni Pepoli and his grain provisioning scheme, the Pio cumulo della misericordia is a case study in factional tensions coming to a head with welfare services as the market arena in which they played out. For Pepoli, his grain scheme was the last straw in a factional conflict between the city’s republican oligarchs and its papal rulers which culminated in his assassination in prison on trumped up treason charges.


Dr. Rachel Stapleton: "Records of Employment: Luisa Sigea and Looking for Work in the 16th Century"

PhD, University of Toronto, CRRS Fellow

Luisa Sigea (ca. 1522–1560) was a well-connected humanist in the court circles of Portugal and Spain. Her father, Diego Sigeo, worked at the Portuguese Court for several decades and facilitated the employment of his two daughters, Luisa and Angela, with the Infanta Maria of Portugal—Luisa specialized in Latin, Angela in music. And as I have argued elsewhere, Sigea’s 1544 letter to Pope Paul III—a linguistic tour de force which she enclosed with her poem, Sintra—garnered her international fame.

Yet for all that, when Luisa and her husband, fellow humanist Francisco de Cuevas, decide to return to Spain from Portugal in 1555, their employment prospects dimmed substantially. Of Sigea’s 22 surviving letters, almost a quarter of them cover her and Francisco’s search for gainful employment in Burgos. These “Records of Employment” act as petitionary letters, but also as cover letters and portfolios, highlighting Luisa’s (and Francisco’s) skills and employability. Even Luisa’s pregnancy and impending motherhood work their way into these letters, as does her increasing desperation when the opportunities she expected do not materialize.

This talk will explore how humanist court employment intersects with gender and motherhood to impact Luisa’s ability to help support her family.
The Early Modern Interdisciplinary Graduate Forum (EMIGF) is a monthly event hosted by the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies (CRRS) at the University of Toronto. EMIGF is a platform for PhD candidates, post-docs, fellows, and recent graduates to deliver papers in an informal setting. Our mandate is to provide junior and emerging scholars with the opportunity to present work in progress, and to facilitate dialogue on current topics in early modern research across the disciplines.



Contact Information

Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies


Centre for Renaissance and Reformation Studies


89 Charles St. W.