Interview with Tamsin Prideaux, Edinburgh University

Tamsin is a PhD researcher from the University of Edinburgh who recently presented for our seminar series on “Foreigners in the heart of the Republic: immigrant petitioners and Venetian legal systems, 1540-1700.” We interview Tamsin about her research and future plans below:

Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from?

I’m from Kent in the south of England, but I spent a lot of my life in different places. I grew up in Indonesia, Brunei, and England. I have spent many of my adult years in Italy.
I’ve been based in Edinburgh now for about six years and I love it here!

What brought you to the University of Edinburgh, and where do you plan on going next?

When I was applying for masters’ programmes, I was attracted to Edinburgh’s Renaissance studies masters’ programme, as early modern history was my biggest interest. It helped that I always wanted to live in Edinburgh, and my sister lived here when I applied for my master’s – so everything came together at the right time!
I’m not sure about where next, I’m hoping to at least get back to Venice for a few months in the Spring for some more research.

What is your favourite thing about the early modern period?

The global movement of artistic and scientific knowledge and materials – I particularly love Mughal miniatures that are so syncretic and beautiful and Maria Sibylla Merian’s botanical work and drawings.

What does your research focus on?

I study the lives of immigrant merchants in Venice and their interactions with the authorities. I focus on the relationship between the Cinque Savii alla Mercanzia, a committee of patrician magistrates set up to promote maritime trade in Venice, and the merchants that they regulated and represented.

What do you plan to focus on in your seminar?
I will be talking about how immigrant merchants used petitions to secure their economic and legal legitimacy in Venice and influenced Venetian legal structures in the process. 

Do you have a favourite early modern text or artwork?
Again, a difficult question because there are just so many! I’m not sure why, but I love looking at Keshav Das [and studio] “St Jerome”. It is a Mughal era miniature that combines Christian imagery of studious St Jerome and drunken sleeping Noah into one figure, with a hazy dreamlike background. It’s very peaceful.

Who is your favourite historical figure from the early modern period, and why?

I’m more interested in the lives of many people, rather than particular historical figures, although when I was a child, I was strangely obsessed with Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, and Mary Queen of Scots. Make of that pattern what you will!  
As an adult, like many people, I’m fascinated by al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan, known commonly in Europe by his soubriquet Leo Africanus. He was a diplomat for the Sultan of Fez when was captured by corsairs in the Mediterranean and imprisoned in the Castel Sant-Angelo. Whilst there, he converted to Christianity, was freed, and wrote the fascinating text known in English as “A Geographical Historie of Africa”. No-one really knows what became of him after that. I also loved reading Veronica Franco’s poems and her cutting rebuttals to Maffio Venier’s literary insults. 

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