Nicholas Terpstra

Professor (He/Him)
Victoria College, NFH 202



Medieval Studies; Italian Studies; Study of Religion

Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

Renaissance and Early modern Italy and Europe; social and political history; spatial and sensory history; digital mapping


I am currently working on spatial and sensory history in the early modern period, particularly as regards intercommunal exchange and relations.  This arises out of some recent work looking at historical backgrounds to the refugee crisis: Religious Refugees in the Early Modern World (Cambridge: 2015), and Global Reformations:  Transforming Early Modern Religions, Societies, and Cultures (Routledge: 2019). It also intersects with a larger project to digitally map social and spatial relations in sixteenth century Florence, known as the DECIMA (Digitally Encoded Census Information and Mapping Archive) project; see Mapping Space, Sense, and Movement in Florence: Historical GIS and the Early Modern City (Routledge: 2016).

Beyond that, much of my work has been at the intersections of politics, gender, charity, and religion.  Books include Cultures of Charity: Women, Politics, and the Reform of Poor Relief in Renaissance Italy (Harvard: 2013) which won the Marraro Prize of the American Historical Association and the Ruth Goodhart Gordan Prize of the Renaissance Society of America; Lost Girls: Sex and Death in Renaissance Florence (Johns Hopkins: 2010); Abandoned Children of the Italian Renaissance: Orphan Care in Florence and Bologna (Johns Hopkins: 2005);  and Lay Confraternities and CivicnReligion in Renaissance Bologna (Cambridge: 1995), which was awarded the Marraro Prize of the Society for Italian Historical Studies.

I have also edited a number of essay collections including: Renaissance Religions: Modes and Meanings in History (Brepols: 2021); Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in Renaissance Italy (Routledge: 2019); Faith's Boundaries: Laity & Clergy in Early Modern Confraternities (Brepols: 2012), The Art of Executing Well: Rituals of Execution in Renaissance Italy (Truman: 2008), The Politics of Ritual Kinship: Confraternities and Social Order in Early Modern Italy (Cambridge: 2000).  A primary source reader: Lives Uncovered: A Sourcebook of Everyday Life in Early Modern Europe was published with University of Toronto Press in 2019.


PhD, University of Toronto
MA, McMaster University
BA, Honours, McMaster University