The Revolt of Snowballs : Murano Confronts Venice, 1511 book cover
1st Edition

The Revolt of Snowballs
Murano Confronts Venice, 1511

ISBN 9781138066069
Published June 18, 2018 by Routledge
176 Pages

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Book Description

The Revolt of Snowballs unpicks a rare and turbulent event which occurred in 1511 and investigates the meaning behind it. On January 27, 1511, the island of Murano was the scene of an exceptional event during which the representative of Venice, exercising power in the island on behalf of the Serenissima, was hunted by the inhabitants under a shower of snowballs and the sound of a hostile clamour. This book uses microhistory techniques to examine the trial records of the incident and explores the lives of the Murano’s inhabitants at its heart.

The book begins by providing a detailed introduction to life in Murano during the sixteenth century, including its political framework and the relationship it shared with Venice. Against this context, the political skills of Murano’s inhabitants are considered and key questions regarding political action are posed, including why and how people chose to protest, what sense of justice drove their actions, and what form those actions took. The latter half of the book charts the events that followed the revolt of snowballs, including the inquest and its impact on Murano’s society.

By putting Murano under the microscope, The Revolt of Snowballs provides a window into the cultural and political world of early modern Italy, and is essential reading for historians of revolt and microhistory more broadly.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. The Island of Murano

Glass and Gardens

Glassworkers and Fishermen

Insularity and Community

From Murano to Venice: the traghetto

Chapter 2. Murano’s Political Community and Venice

The Political Space of the Lagoon

A community of risk

A Shared Fragile Space

The law of the podestà

Citizens and Muranesi officials

The Participation of the People

Chapter 3. A Tottering Ritual

Ritual Politics

The Theatre of Society

Chase off this dog who has ruined Muran!

Chapter 4. The Revolt in its Time

Italy at War

Noise of Conflict

The Great Cold

"Semel in anno licet insanire". Once a year it is permissible to get crazy

Vitale Vitturi

Chapter 5. The Sense of Justice





Chapter 6. The Accused

Before the judges

Antonio Malcanton, public crier


Chapter 7. Political Actions, Political Intentions

The appropriation of ritual

The performance of the revolt

Making politics

Political acknowledgment and juridical status

To Vote and Elect

Chapter 8. The Trial. A Test of Truth and Persons

Reconstructing the truths


"Io sum per neve". "I am there for the snow". On justification

Return to Murano

After the revolt


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Claire Judde de Larivière is Senior Lecturer at the University of Toulouse and honorary research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. Her previous works include Naviguer, commercer, gouverner. Économie maritime et pouvoirs à Venise (XVe-XVIe siècles), 2008; "‘Le peuple est la cité’. L’idée de popolo et la condition des popolani à Venise (XVe-XVIe siècle)", Annales HSS, 2013/4 (with Rosa M. Salzberg); and, ‘The Urban Culture of the Ordinary People. Space and Identity in Renaissance Venice (fifteenth-sixteenth Centuries)’, Medieval Urban Culture, ed. by Andrew Brown and Jan Dumolyn, Turnhout, 2017.


'For a thousand years, the Republic of Venice experienced no regime change and only modest social and political strife when compared to the upheavals that erupted across Europe. The Revolt of Snowballs interrogates the meaning of a rare outburst of popular discontent against Venetian political authorities. This excellent translation will allow English-language readers to appreciate an engaging and informative analysis of a singular episode in the history of Renaissance Venice.'

Francesca Trivellato, Yale University, USA

'Both a vivid reconstruction of an event, and a sparkling analysis of society and politics, The Revolt of the Snowballs reminds us of the power of microhistory. The book contributes profoundly to our understanding of pre-modern politics and revolt, of what counted as politics from different contemporary perspectives, and of what we might call a social history of political ideas. It is a great achievement, and a gripping read.'

John H. Arnold, University of Cambridge, UK