Course Meeting Times

Seminars: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Course Description

What was the early modern economy like, and how did monetization impact artistic production, consumption, and the afterlife of objects? This seminar-format class explores major topics and themes concerning interconnections between early modern artistic and architectural creation and the economy. One ambition is to study capitalism not as an inevitable system, but rather as a particular historical formation. We will begin by asking what defines the parameters of an early modern profit economy and discussing some of the major interpretive frameworks that historically have guided thoughts about capitalism in relation to late medieval and Renaissance architectural and art history. We then trace core themes: commodification, production, and consumption, using case studies that examine the impact of the mercantile economy on chapels; palaces; prints and paintings, and their replication; and other material objects, including coins. Our exploration of production looks at ways of organizing buying and selling, including questions concerning Europe’s corporate labor structure (the guild system) and patterns of patronage and sponsorship. We conclude the course by analyzing studies on pre- and early modern globalization and the relevance of world systems theory to the culture and time that we are studying. An array of topics falls under the rubric of this subject and they are organized to provoke conversation.

Course Requirements & Grading

Requirements include attendance, completion of readings in advance of the class meeting for which a reading is assigned, a series of response papers, a final presentation and paper, and active class participation. Students are expected to read the texts outlined on the syllabus for each class meeting, and, on occasion, to have a solid knowledge of additional, supplementary readings.

Three Response Papers, 3–4 pages double-spaced (15% each) 45%
Final Presentation, about 25 minutes plus Q&A 15%
Final Paper, 15 pages (excluding footnotes, bibliography, and illustrations) 25%
Class participation and attendance 15%


1 Introduction
2 Capitalism’s Historiography: The Early Modern Profit Economy
3 Price and Valuation: The Art Market and Workshop Practices
4 Moralizing Profits & Building, Money and Time

Class Held At The Museum Of Fine Arts

Metal Technologies of Capitalism: Early Modern Numismatics, Monetization, and Money as Object

6 Palaces and Banks
7 Early Modern Urbanization and Marketplaces & An Architecture of Trade: Loggias and Fondacos

Meeting About Paper Topics This Week

The Non-mechanized Copy: Questions of Originality

9 Visit to the Institute Archives & Rotch Rare Books
10 Guilds as Economic Organizations and Corporate Patrons
11 Final Presentations [MARCHs and SMARCHs must present]

Final Presentations

Final Papers Due For MARCHs and SMARCHs


Final Papers Due For non-MARCHs and non-SMARCHs

No Discussion Leader assigned; no response papers

The Early Modern Economy: A Case for World Systems and Globalization?

Course Info
As Taught In
Spring 2014
Learning Resource Types
assignment_turned_in Written Assignments with Examples
assignment Presentation Assignments
co_present Instructor Insights