Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2019
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
An Economy of Color: Global Commerce in Dyes and the Fate of the Italian Textile Industry, 1348-1600

This dissertation examines transformations in the Renaissance Italian textile industry from a global perspective by focusing on the important global trade in dyes and its impact on Italian textile firms. Dyeing was an expensive step in textile production and key to the growth of fashion and wider consumer demand. Global trade networks supplied textile centers with the natural resources that made color. Yet there have been few studies on the economic aspects of dyeing. My research explores this "economy of color:" the international trade in dyestuffs and the new forms of consumption, production, and labor that molded around that exchange. I will conduct extensive archival investigations into fifteenth and sixteenth-century account books of textile firms held in public and family archives in Florence, Genoa, Pisa, and Prato. Using the immense detail on the economy of color in accounts – with prices, tariffs, wages, creditors, suppliers, provenance and weights— I will flesh out a detailed and quantitative history on global commerce in color. With this ensemble of information, I aim to understand the machinations of the much grander issue of transformations in the Italian textile industry at a historical moment where it lost its edge and the role that color played in those changes. In particular, I focus on the centuries straddling New World contact and how the shift away from Old World dyes effected Italian textile firms, who no longer saw themselves at the center of the international exchange in textile production's key inputs. I propose to spend twelve months in Italian archives with the support of a Mellon IDRF. My stay in Florence would comprise the longest portion of this (September 2019 - April 2020), followed by a month in archives in Pisa and Prato (May 2020) and an extended stay working Genoese archives (June 2020 – August 2020). The Mellon IDRF would support my first year of research abroad, or the fourth year in my History PhD program at Harvard.