Crime and Gender in Bologna, 1600-1796

This project examines the criminal court records of Bologna, Italy (1600-1796).



  • The criminal records of Bologna (Tribunale del Torrone) provide extensive and detailed information about the crimes that are prosecuted in Bologna in the period between 1600 and 1796. As scholars have focussed their examinations on the late middle ages and the period of the Renaissance, the records of the trials in the early modern period are still largely unexplored. This project offers a great opportunity to examine the period between 1600-1796, which has received much less attention in Italian historiography. During the period of examination Bologna was part of the Papal States (1506-1797). The courts were ruled by a cardinal (legato), though most judges (uditori, sotto-uditori) were secular. The records of the ‘Tribunale del Torrone’ are held at the city archive of Bologna (L’Archivio di Stato di Bologna).
  • The extensiveness of the files will make it necessary to work with samples. The PhD working on the project will be assisted by prof.dr.Cesarina Casanova (University of Bologna) who knows the archive of Bologna and the criminal records very well (Casanova: 2004).
  • Sources providing additional information about criminal law, legislation and specific trials, such as law books (ius commune, city statutes), printed sources of crime, church books, and legal administration.
  • Secondary literature on moral and legal norms, family structure, labour participation, living standards, and urbanisation in Italy.



  • Family system: egalitarian nuclear family system during the late middle ages. During that period women had full legal capacity, could own and manage property, providing a relatively good position for women. The city of Bologna allowed women to participate in many professions, and women in general had more freedom than in other cities in Italy. Historians debate whether women’s position in marriage, law and labour relations deteriorated in Italy from the 14th and 15th centuries onwards as a result of economic and demographic decline and Counter-reformation policies (Cohn: 1996, 1998, ; Kuehn: 1998, 2001).
  • Between 1600 and 1800 the population of Bologna fluctuated between 45,000 and 70,000, due to various plagues and long-term economic decline (Ginatempo & Sandri: 1990, 85; Hughes: 1994, 7; Clark: 2009, 113). During the early modern period silk and hemp were the most important products in the economy of Bologna, though in the 16th and 17th centuries the city’s industries suffered from foreign and rural competition (Clark: 2009, 113).


Dissertation on crime and gender in Bologna (1600-1796).