Nicholas Terpstra is Professor and Chair of History, teaching Renaissance and early modern social history. In his research he has explored how civil society and social capital operate in Renaissance European society, and asks why this period of humanity and freedom also sees poverty, harsh discipline, and the emergence of the religious refugee as a mass phenomenon. The drive to work imaginatively across borders—geographic, intellectual, institutional—is most conspicuous in all his work.
In the past few years, Terpstra has focused on how Renaissance cities handled orphans, abandoned children, and poor in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. A recent book, Cultures of Charity won the Gordan Book Prize of the Renaissance Society of America and the Howard Marraro Prize of the American Historical Association. His most recent book, Religious Refugees in the Early Modern World explores exclusion and exile in the period of the Reformation. An ongoing project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada is DECIMA (Digitally Encoded Census Information and Mapping Archive) an on-line digital tool that maps social, sensory, and built environments in Renaissance Florence. He is also Editor of Renaissance Quarterly, the leading academic journal for interdisciplinary studies in the Renaissance.
Religious Refugees in the Early Modern World: An Alternative Interpretation of the Reformation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.
Cultures of Charity: Women, Politics, and the Reform of Poor Relief in Renaissance Italy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013
Lost Girls: Sex & Death in Renaissance Florence. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010. Translated as Ragazze perdute: Sesso e morte nella Firenze de Rinascimento. (Rome: Carocci, 2015).
Abandoned Children of the Italian Renaissance: Orphan Care in Florence and Bologna. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,2005. Translated as Infanzia abbandonata nell’Italia del Rinascimento: Strategie di assistenza a confronto: Bologna e Firenze (Bologna: CLUEB, 2014).
The Art of Executing Well: Rituals of Execution in Renaissance Italy. (Kirksville: Truman State University Press, 2008).
The Politics of Ritual Kinship: Confraternities and Social Order in Early Modern Italy. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
Lay Confraternities and Civic Religion in Renaissance Bologna. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Awarded the Howard R. Marraro Prize of the Society for Italian Historical Studies (1996).