City of the Lagoons: A History of Venice in a Six-Part Course with Dr. Thomas F. Madden

City of the Lagoons: A History of Venice in a Six-Part Course with Dr. Thomas F. Madden


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In 452 the world was ending.
The last remnants of the Roman Empire were crumbling under the relentless onslaught of waves of barbarian migrations. In Italian cities like Altinum and Aquileia, frightened refugees gathered their belongings and fled to the sandy, barren islands of the nearby lagoon. Although they could never have known it, these desperate men, women, and children were the founders of one of history’s most remarkable cities. From a marshy archipelago, they would bring forth the extraordinary beauty that is Venice – a city unlike any other in the world.
It did not happen all at once. For centuries the lagoon remained a collection of island communities. Even after settlements began to cluster around Rialto, Venice was still a place of wood and mud. But that too would change. By the thirteenth century, Venice was not simply a town built on the water, it was the second-largest city in western Europe with a maritime empire that stretched across the Mediterranean Sea. Venice and wealth would become kindred concepts. And with that wealth, the Venetians built a magnificent city – a stunning composition of stone and water that still evokes wonder today.
This course, offered by Dr. Thomas F. Madden, one of the world’s leading historians of Venice and author of 'Venice: A New History' and 'Enrico Dandolo and the Rise of Venice', will tell the fascinating story of this remarkable place. Venice is a place of contradictions – a city without land, an empire without territory.

Everyone knows what Venice is, but few know why it is or how it came to be. This course will guide participants to discover those answers. Venice is not simply a work of art. It is the birthplace of modern capitalism. While the rest of medieval Europe groaned under kings and landed magnates, the Venetians formed a free republic – one that would last for a thousand years.

Did you know: Dr. Madden will be leading two Context Journeys, to both Venice and Istanbul in 2022. Context Journeys are multi-day, small group tours in cultural capitals all over the world. For additional details, please click here.

Lecture 1: St. Mark’s Rest: The Birth of the City of Venice, 697-1094 
The refugees that fled the mainland in the wake of the invasions were forced to carve out new lives amid the brackish waters of the lagoon. This lecture will describe their difficulties and extraordinary successes as they forged a new republic in defiance of an age of chaos.
Lecture 2: From Merchant Republic to Maritime Empire: The Rise of Venice in the Middle Ages 
By 1250 Venice was the largest city in Europe with a commercial empire that stretches across the Eastern Mediterranean. In this lecture, participants will be introduced to Venetians like Enrico Dandolo, the blind old doge who helped conquer Constantinople and transformed the city of the lagoons.
Lecture 3: From Marco Polo to the Black Death: Prosperity, Power, and Plague on the Eve of Renaissance 
Business was brisk in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and Venetian businessmen were eager for their share. This lecture will explore the fierce rivalries between Venice and Genoa that led to voyages like that of Marco Polo and the import of diseases like the Bubonic Plague.
Lecture 4: Splendid and Serene: Venice and the Renaissance 
Although the Renaissance began in Florence, Venice with its extraordinary wealth was an early adopter. In this lecture, we will meet the greatest of Venice’s artists – men like Jacopo and Gentile Bellini, Titian, Vittore Carpaccio, Tintoretto, and Andrea Palladio – and the society that patronized them.
Lecture 5: Masks, Opera, and Love: Venice the Tourist Destination in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries 
With the rise of the Atlantic powers, Venice’s imperial reach declined rapidly. Yet, it remained the world’s most beloved destination for wealthy foreign tourists. This lecture will describe the sights and sounds of Baroque Venice, from the Carnevale costumes to the dimly lit casinos, to the music of Vivaldi.
Lecture 6:  War, Water, and Tourists: Venice in the Modern Age 
After Napoleon abolished the Republic of Venice, the city found itself in a period of decay and self-doubt. The advent of trains and jets, though, began to bring tourists to Venice from around the world. This lecture will describe the enormous changes that the city has undergone in the past century, leading to a future threatened by the rising levels of sea and tourism.

How does it work?
This is a six-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.
Is there a reading list in advance?
Though the course is open to participants with no background in Venetian history, there are suggested readings for further investigation. You will receive this soon after course registration.
How long are the lectures?
Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.
How much is the course?
The course is $210 for 6 lectures.
Is a recording available?
Yes. All registered participants will be sent a recording within 24 hours of each session's conclusion. The recordings are available to re-watch for seven days thereafter.

Are there additional seminars, courses, and in-person experiences being led by Dr. Madden?
Yes!  Dr. Madden will be leading several popular Context courses in 2022. Details are available here.

Additionally, Dr. Madden will be leading two Context Journeys, to both Venice and Istanbul in 2022. Context Journeys are multi-day, small group tours in cultural capitals all over the world. Expertly crafted to take learners to the heart of a destination, our Journeys take logistics and planning off of your plate as you uncover the history, art, and culture of your chosen destination. For additional details, please click here.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 78 reviews
94%
(73)
5%
(4)
1%
(1)
0%
(0)
0%
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M
M.F.

Excellent presentation - a lot of fascinating information (at more than a basic level) and very good visuals. Very well presented. I would take any course with Dr. Madden.

L
L.J.C.

Guest did not leave comment

N
N.A.

Guest did not leave comment

C
C.B.
Another Great Series

Thomas is one of my favorite presenters. Always interesting, knows his subjects in depth and is an excellent presenter.

L
L.F.
Excellent lecturing style

Prof Madden’s knowledge of his area of research is unquestionable. His ability to communicate it to different audiences is not taken for granted in researchers. His teaching/outreach skills are superb. Makes this economist want to retrain and enroll in his courses at U St Louis! Inspirational! Looking forward to more and to his lectures on Constantinople.

Customer Reviews

Based on 78 reviews
94%
(73)
5%
(4)
1%
(1)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
M
M.F.

Excellent presentation - a lot of fascinating information (at more than a basic level) and very good visuals. Very well presented. I would take any course with Dr. Madden.

L
L.J.C.

Guest did not leave comment

N
N.A.

Guest did not leave comment

C
C.B.
Another Great Series

Thomas is one of my favorite presenters. Always interesting, knows his subjects in depth and is an excellent presenter.

L
L.F.
Excellent lecturing style

Prof Madden’s knowledge of his area of research is unquestionable. His ability to communicate it to different audiences is not taken for granted in researchers. His teaching/outreach skills are superb. Makes this economist want to retrain and enroll in his courses at U St Louis! Inspirational! Looking forward to more and to his lectures on Constantinople.