Dr Alex  Bamji

Dr Alex Bamji

Associate Professor of Early Modern History

+44 (0)113 34 33602

Summary: Early modern Italy; cultural, religious and urban history; history of medicine.


I completed my BA in History, MPhil in Historical Studies, and PhD in History at the University of Cambridge. I joined the School of History at Leeds in July 2008, following a temporary lectureship in Early Modern History at the University of Glasgow.

Research interests

I am a social and cultural historian of early modern Europe, with interests in cities, religion, gender and the history of medicine. My research focuses on religious reform, death and disease in early modern society. My current research project on 'Death in early modern Venice' explores mortality, funerary ritual, cemeteries, and the material culture of death, and sheds light on the distinctiveness of death in Venice through sustained comparisons with the cities of Mantua, Milan and Nuremberg. I am also interested in how religious belief and practice shaped communities and the lives of individuals, and I have published on the 'Catholic life cycle'. My research has been supported by grants from the AHRC, British Academy and Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. I am a member of the Health, Medicine and Society research group in the School of History.

Current Research Projects

Death in early modern Venice

Why did death and the dead matter so much to urban communities? Focusing on the city of Venice, my project evaluates the entanglement of death with religious and social change. I explore how people died and why certain causes of death provoked anxiety; highlight the materiality of the dead body and its movement through urban space; and interrogate the impact of familial self-fashioning, lay religiosity and mobility on changing experiences of death. Detailed comparisons with attitudes and practices in other European cities are a distinctive feature of this project. An Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Early Career Fellowship funded research in Mantua, Milan and Nuremberg, which has enabled comparisons of government motivations and an assessment of the impact of religious change on burial practices. A British Academy/Leverhulme Small Grant is currently supporting research into confraternities, death and devotion.

Key Publications

Alexandra Bamji, 'The materiality of death in early modern Venice', in Religious materiality in the early modern world, ed. by Suzanna Ivanic, Mary Laven, Andrew Morrall (Amsterdam University Press, 2018)

Alexandra Bamji, 'Health passes, print, and public health in early modern Venice', Social History of Medicine (2018)

Alexandra Bamji, 'Medical care in early modern Venice', Journal of Social History 49:3 (2016): 483-509.

Alexandra Bamji, Linda Borean and Laura Moretti (eds), La chiesa e l'ospedale di San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti (Marcianum Press, 2015)

Alexandra Bamji, 'I protagonisti dei Mendicanti tra cura e carità', in Alexandra Bamji, Linda Borean and Laura Moretti (eds), La chiesa e l'ospedale di San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti (Marcianum Press, 2015), pp. 47-64. 

Alexandra Bamji, Geert H. Janssen and Mary Laven (eds), The Ashgate Research Companion to the Counter-Reformation (Ashgate, 2013)

Alexandra Bamji, 'The Catholic life cycle', in Alexandra Bamji et al. (eds), The Ashgate Research Companion to the Counter-Reformation (Ashgate, 2013), pp. 183-201.

Alexandra Bamji, 'The control of space: dealing with diversity in early modern Venice', Italian Studies 62:2 (2007): 175-188.

Book reviews for Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Business History Review, Canadian Journal of History, English Historical Review, European History Quarterly, Forum ItalicumGerman History, History, Isis, Medical History, Medicina e storiaRenaissance QuarterlyRenaissance StudiesSocial History of Medicine, Women's History Review.

Postgraduate Supervision

Current PhD students

Giovanni Pozzetti (WRoCAH studentship network 'Cultures of Consumption in Early Modern Europe', 2014-): 'Diet, health and identity in early modern England and Italy: A comparative study of the application and understanding of Galenic principles'

Giulia Zanon (Leeds Anniversary Research Scholarship, 2016-): 'Citizenship, scuole grandi and artistic patronage in early modern Venice'

Past research students

Alexandra Anderson (2011-18): 'Writing the history of the English monarchy: Franco-British historiographical cultures, 1688-1788' (PhD).

Claire Rennie (2012-16): 'The care of sick children in eighteenth-century England' (PhD). 

Ning Kang (2013-14): 'Statutes in medieval Venetian guilds' (MA by Research). Kang subsequently completed a PhD at Peking University and is now a lecturer at the People's Public Security University of China.

I welcome enquiries from potential research students with interests in the following areas:

  • the cultural, social and religious history of early modern Italy
  • the history of medicine and health in early modern Europe

For details of our MA programmes in History of Health, Medicine and Society, and Social and Cultural History, please see:




Faith, Knowledge and Power, 1500-1750 (HIST1060). This first year elective module provides an introduction to some of the central issues in the study of early modern history.  The module traces a path from the Reformation to the Enlightenment, focusing on three themes: religious conflict and controversy, cultures of knowledge, and order and disorder in early modern society.

The Body, Disease and Society in Europe, 1500-1750 (HIST2220). My teaching for this module is inspired by my research interests in the histories of medicine and the body.  Ranging from mortality to monsters and hospitals to hernias, this course traces how ideas about health and responses to disease varied across Europe and developed through the early modern period.

The Cultural History of Venice, 1509-1797 (HIST3382). This special subject developed from my passion for the history of Venice, and draws on an exciting array of primary sources, including diaries, paintings, travel journals, legislation and costume books. The people of Venice - from spies, courtesans and aspiring saints, to shipbuilders and fishermen fighting on the city's bridges - are at the heart of this course.

Recent Seminar and Conference Papers

'Scribes, flyleaves and death registers in early modern Venice' (Sheffield, 2018) 

'Confraternities, death and devotion in early modern Venice' (New Orleans, 2018) 

'Sudden death in early modern Venice' (Cambridge, 2017)

'Sudden death in early modern Venice' (UEA, 2017)

'Print, public health and power in early modern Venice' (Nashville, 2017) 

'Digging up the dead: exhumation in early modern Venice' (Helsinki, 2016) 

'Ephemeral print and public health in early modern Europe' (Canterbury, 2016) 

'Sudden death in early modern Venice' (Edinburgh, 2016) 

'Marginality and mortality in early modern Venice' (Manchester, 2015) 

'Childbirth, midwives and neonatal mortality in early modern Venice' (Leeds, 2014) 

'Monitoring mortality: physicians and the state in early modern Venice' (Oxford, 2014) 

'Masks, shrouds and catafalques: the materiality of death in early modern Venice' (New York, 2014)

Academic Activities

With Filippo de Vivo (Birkbeck) and Mary Laven (Cambridge), I convene the Venetian Seminar, an annual interdisciplinary conference which brings together scholars of history, art history, literature and linguistics who study Venice and Italy. Please email me if you would like to be added to the mailing list.

With Laura King (Leeds), I co-organised a conference entitled 'Birth: personal stories to population policies' at the University of Leeds on 18-19 September 2014. For more details, see: http://www.birth.leeds.ac.uk/

With Linda Borean (Udine) and Laura Moretti (St Andrews), I co-organised a major international conference on the church and hospital of San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti in Venice: 'La Chiesa e l'Ospedale di San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti: Arte, Beneficenza, Cura, Devozione, Educazione', Venice, 6-7 December 2013.