Italian Research Seminar: Rachel Midura (Virginia Tech)


Location: Rare Books and Special Collections 102 Hesburgh Library

Midura Image
Image courtesy of Stanford University

The Center for Italian Studies is pleased to host a lecture by Professor Rachel Midura of Virginia Tech University titled:

"Deadly Letters: Plague, Banditry and Heresy in Early Modern Mail".

By the mid sixteenth-century, continental Europe depended upon mail for the ordinary pulse of governance and commerce. Communications networks remained as vulnerable as the humans who carried the letters. As a contemporary proverb put it, “he who rides by post, plays with death." I use state archives from across Italy to explore how protecting postal couriers from brigandage, plague, and political or religious rebellion shaped international relations. The expansion of state-sponsored postal systems into carrying private mail relied upon surveilling and intervening into a contentious public sphere.

Rachel Midura is an assistant professor of early modern European and digital history at Virginia Tech University. Her most recent article, "Itinerating Europe: Early Modern Spatial Networks in Printed Itineraries, 1545-1700" appeared in the Journal of Social History in Summer 2021. She is currently at work on her first book, tentatively titled Postal Intelligence: The Tassis Family and Communications Revolution in Early Modern Europe on early modern surveillance, espionage, and the origins of Europe’s postal systems. She finished her PhD in early modern European history in 2020 at Stanford University, where she was also a senior graduate research fellow at the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis. 

The lecture is co-sponsored by the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre at Notre Dame.