Charity and Power in Early Modern Italy: Benefactors and Their Motives in Turin, 1541-1789

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Through its examination of a city marginal to the Italian tradition of communes and city-states during the post-Renaissance period, the book offers an extended reassessment of what has been regarded as the typical Italian model of welfare. Acts of charity have often been interpreted either within a functionalist framework or merely as responses to the needs of the poor by reference to the elusive field of changing mentalites. This book seeks instead to illuminate the reasons for individuals' involvement in charity. Analysis of the relationships of power, and conflict within the actors' personal and political milieux, reveals that tensions within the social elites were a crucial factor in motivating charitable giving and even in shaping perceptions of the deserving poor. Special attention is paid to the symbolic and direct aims of charity, rather than to its explicit interventions. This focus on subjectivity also throws new light on the link between gender and charitable activity.