Philip R. Gavitt





Department Chair



Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1988;

A.B., University of Rochester, 1972




My primary research interests are the social, cultural and intellectual history of late medieval and early modern Italy, especially the history of childhood, gender history, history of science and medicine, and the history of poverty and charity. Having just finished writing a book on early modern charity in Tuscany, I am now interested in the intersection of art, charity, and politics at the Medici court in sixteenth-century Florence and will write a biography of Vincenzio Borghini, who was involved in so many projects that his life can be seen almost as a prism through which one can view the social, cultural, and intellectual life of early modern Florence. My attention will then turn to both Rome and Venice and the intellectual milieu of Dominicans from the Renaissance up to the beginning of the Council of Trent in 1545, and finally to a topic in the History of Medicine, an area in which the resources of the Vatican Film Library are especially rich. In 1992 I founded the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (now directed by Professor Madden), which exists both to promote interdisciplinary study of the period from 600 to 1600, and to encourage extensive use of the Vatican Film Library and other fabulously endowed library resources in the St. Louis area.

Honors and Fellowships:

  • Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation Award for Research in Venice and the Veneto (2005-2006)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend (2000)
  • Scientific Advisory Committee, Assessorate for Community, Health, and Social Services, City of Florence, Italy (1997-2002)
  • Visiting Professor, Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Florence, Italy (1996-1997)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Grant for University Teachers (1996-1997)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant (1993)
  • American Council of Learned Societies, Summer Grant-in-Aid (1993)
  • Harvard University Center for Renaissance Studies (Villa I Tatti) Fellowship (1990-1991)
  • Leopold Schepp Foundation Fellowship (1990-1991)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend (1990)
  • Society for Italian Historical Studies Prize for Best Unpublished Manuscript (1988)
  • Renaissance Society of America Summer Program in Archival and Manuscript research (1976)

Recent Courses Taught:

  • HIST 490 Undergraduate Seminar on the History of Science and Medicine
  • HIST 500 Theory and Practice of History
  • HIST 541 Advanced Studies in Early Modern History: History of Childhood and the Family
  • HIST 682 The Catholic Church and Modern Science, 1400-1800
  • HIST 682 Graduate Seminar on the History of Science and Medicine
  • HIST 682 Graduate seminar of the History of Medicine --see the syllabus posted on the National Library of Medicine website.

Scholarly Publications:


  • Gender, Honor, and Charity in Late Renaissance Florence (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
  •  Charity and Children in Renaissance Florence: The Ospedale degli Innocenti, 1410-1536 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990).

Journal Articles

  • "Charity and State-building in Early Modern Florence: Vincenzio Borghini as Administrator of the Ospedale degli Innocenti," Journal of Modern History 69 (1997): 230-70.

Essays in Edited Volumes

  • "Corporate Beneficence and Historical Narratives of Communal Well-being" in Roger Crum and John Paoletti, eds., Renaissance Florence: A Social History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 138-160.
  • "From putte to puttane: Female Foundlings and Charitable Institutions in Northern Italy, 1530-1630," in At the Margins: Minority Groups in Premodern Italy, ed. Stephen J. Milner (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005), pp. 111-29.
  • "An Experimental Culture: The Art of the Economy and the Economy of Art under Cosimo I and Francesco I," in The Cultural Politics of Duke Cosimo I de' Medici, ed. Konrad Eisenbichler (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001), pp. 205-222.
  • "A Case of Sudden Infant Death in Late Medieval Florence: The Smothering Hypothesis Reconsidered," in Medieval Family Roles, ed. C. J. Itnyre (New York: Garland, 1996).
  • "Perche non avea chi lo governasse: Cultural Values, Family Resources and Abandonment in the Florence of Lorenzo de' Medici," in Poor Women and Children in the European Past, eds. John Henderson and Richard Wall (London: Routledge, 1994).
  • "Economy, Charity and Community in Florence, 1350-1450," in Aspects of Poverty in Early Modern Europe, ed. Thomas Riis (Florence: Le Monnier, 1981).

Graduate Students:

  • Elizabeth Bird
  • Carolyn Ellis
  • Beth Petitjean
  • Sara Rodgers
  • Matthew Schweizer
Higher purpose. Greater good.
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