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William J. Connell

Professor Connell Wins Award

William J. Connell, Professor of History and founding director of the Joseph M. and Geraldine C. La Motta Chair in Italian Studies, has been selected as a 2019 Andrew Carnegie Fellow. As a recipient of the “Brainy Award,” the fellowship includes a $200,000 grant to devote significant time to research, writing and publishing in the humanities and social sciences.

Connell’s project, Tracking Migrant Labor in Renaissance Florence, researches the ending of a century-old policy of free immigration and the passage of a law requiring foreign workers to register with the state by purchasing numbered annual work permits.

“My discovery in Florence’s Archivio di Stato of the registers recording deliveries of these work permits over a 40-year period, from 1473 to 1512, means for the first time we can measure this substantial population. Particularly intriguing is the way data analysis can be applied to these records to demonstrate in a very precise way, how this extremely mobile population fluctuated over time in response to growth or downturns in the economy and also around war or plague,” said Connell.

The Carnegie Fellowship supports Connell’s efforts to shed important light on this topic, looking at the structuring of Florence’s society around the city’s political, scholarly and artistic achievements, as well as what citizenship looked like in an early modern state versus in classical antiquity or the medieval commune.

A distinguished panel of 16 jurors chose the fellows based on the quality, originality and potential impact of their proposals, as well as each scholar’s capacity to communicate the findings to a broad audience. The jurors are all scholars and intellectual leaders from the some of the world’s leading educational institutions, foundations and scholarship societies and six are either current or former university presidents.

Carnegie Corporation of New York was established in 1911 by Andrew Carnegie to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, the Corporation’s work focuses on the issues that Andrew Carnegie considered of paramount importance: international peace, education and knowledge and the strength of our democracy.