My other interest is Italian Renaissance history, predominantly cultural and social history – with a focus on Rome and Florence – but also Italian political history and key political thinkers of the period.


After studying Medieval and Modern History at St.Andrew’s University, my Ph.D. took me to Florence where I studied cultural and economic history at the European University Institute. My thesis was supervised by Prof. Carlo Cipolla, Dr. David Chambers and Prof. Richard Goldthwaite, and was awarded in 1983.

At the EUI I was privileged to be taught by leading historians, including Charles Wilson.  Professor Denys Hay supervised the second year of my thesis during the time he was at the EUI in 1981-82, and that memory provides a link to Edinburgh, the university where I now teach part-time. While working in the Florentine State Archives – which were still in the Uffizi at the time – I also met other well-known scholars who were incredibly generous with their knowledge and expertise. My research also involved time spent in the Vatican Library and Archive, and the State Archives in Rome. In terms of location, walking through the Porta Sant’Anna into the Vatican day after day was undoubtedly top, but the State Archives in Rome were memorable for being next to Borromini’s church, Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza.

The title of my thesis was “Una suprema magnificenza”: Niccolo’ Ridolfi, a Florentine Cardinal in Sixteenth-Century Rome” (EUI, 1983).

Publications (newer ones at the top)

“Cardinals’ Property and Income”, in Miles Pattenden, Mary Hollingsworth, Arnold Witte (eds), Companion to the Early Modern Cardinal, (Leiden: Brill, 2020), 276-293

“Prince, Villain, Fortune’s Fool: Is Cesare Borgia’s reputation beyond repair?”, in Jennifer DaSilva (ed.), The Borgia Family: Rumor and Representation (Abingdon/New York: Routledge 2020), 201-230

“Gilio’s Text and the English Translation”, in Giovanni Andrea Gilio, Dialogue on the Errors and Abuses of Painters, co-translation with Michael Bury, eds Michael Bury, Lucinda Byatt and  Carol Richardson (Getty Publications: Los Angeles 2018), 65-78.

“Cardinal Ridolfi and Sant’Agata dei Goti”, in Early Modern Rome (Ferrara: Edisai Edizioni, 2012), 230–40

“Aspetti giuridici e finanziari di una “famiglia” cardinalizia del XVI secolo: un progetto di ricerca”, in C. Mozzarelli (ed), Famiglia del Principe e famiglia aristocratica (Rome: Bulzoni Editore 1988) , 611-630.

“The Concept of Hospitality in a Cardinal’s Household in Renaissance Rome”, in Renaissance Studies, 2 (1988), 312-320. (The issue was published as a Tribute to Denys Hay)

I have also contributed the following entries to the Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (available online):

“Pietro Vanni (Peter Vannes)”, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (in press)
“Maria di Filippo Strozzi”, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (in press)
“Niccolò Ridolfi”, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (2017)
“Roberto Ridolfi”, DBI (2017)
“Antonio Elio”, DBI, XLII (1993), pp. 480-84
“Cardinal Ippolito D’Este”, DBI, XLIII (1993), pp. 361-74
“Cardinal Ippolito II D’Este”, DBI, XLIII (1993), pp. 374-76


I’ve taught at the University of Edinburgh since 2009. During the academic years 2013 to 2016 I taught an undergraduate honours course on Machiavelli and his World in the History Department at Edinburgh University.

These are some of the courses I continue to teach at the Centre for Open Learning at the University.

Women in Early Modern Italy
The Florentine Renaissance: A Chronological Assessment.
The Republic of Venice: Myth and Reality, 1400-1650.

Rome ‘Caput Mundi’: Curia, Cardinals and Courtesans from 1300 to 1590.
The State as a Work of Art: Power and Politics in Renaissance Italy.
Food and Society in Early Modern Europe.
Niccolò Machiavelli: Politics, Society and Culture in Renaissance Italy.

Viridaria perpulchra: Gardens in and around Rome during the High Renaissance and Early Baroque.
Renaissance and Baroque Gardens in Central and Northern Italy.

Food in Italy: the Middle Ages to the Risorgimento
Mary Queen of Scots: French fashions and Italian textiles at the Scottish court

I have given public lectures on several of the above topics. Do get in touch to discuss any talks that you might be interested in arranging, or enrol for a short course at the Centre for Open Learning, Edinburgh.

Follow me on Academia.edu


(Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza, Rome)