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In a new article, published by the renowned history journal 'Past & Present', ACUH member Maartje van Gelder studies the intertwined processes of popular protest and archival suppression in early modern Venice.

Together with Filippo de Vivo, the article concentrates on a cycle of contention extending over several months in 1569, including a labour protest that started among the workers of the state shipyard and turned into a large revolt, anonymous placards and food riots. Such was the extent of the unrest that a major explosion in the shipyard raised suspicion of sabotage. Eventually, the government had to capitulate to the workers’ demands. This cycle of protests in Venice, a city normally renowned for peace and concord, has left minimal traces in the official records: the government tried to suppress the protests not only in practice but also on paper. It carried out convictions in secret, obliterated the revolt from its archives, buried any mention of protest under countless other records, and elided dissent from published histories. By using a variety of non-governmental sources, it is possible to investigate how contentious politics were written out of government records, and hence of history. Manipulating archives was always easier than subduing people: the more power was contested in the streets, the more it needed to be asserted in the archive.

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