Luca Foti

Graduate Student in History
Status: PhD
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Area of Expertise

Late-antique, medieval, and early modern Europe and the Mediterranean; Medieval Italy, with particular focus on thirteenth- and fourteenth-century urban life (political, social, cultural, religious).


My main research interests encompass the competition to define and assert legitimate authority in the cities under papal secular rule. My dissertation, Heretical Communes: The Struggle for Authority in the Fourteenth-Century Papal Territories, looks at court cases as spaces in which local urban elites contested the claims of the popes to rule their cities. I argue that inquisitorial trials for heresy initiated by the popes to prosecute political rebels in the first half of the fourteenth century became a powerful instrument in the hands of local urban elites, who could draw on vast legal expertise to challenge papal definitions of legitimate rule. This argument foregrounds the processes of negotiation between local elites and the papacy, while also reconceptualizing our understanding of inquisitorial trials for heresy and the relations between inquisitors and alleged heretics.

While working on my dissertation, I have been assembling a database that tracks the participation of individual citizens in the council meetings of the commune of Todi (Umbria) in the first half of the fourteenth century, reconstructing the political career of about 250 individuals. I plan to continue my work on this database and integrate my data with the information drawn from tax records (catasti) from the same period, in order to delineate the wealth and socio-economic background of the individuals composing my sample. This prosopographical study will form the basis of my next project, which will investigate the ways in which forms and practices of communal government remained the source of legitimate power even during periods of seigniorial control of the city. In order to understand why this was the case, my future research will focus on how individual citizens experienced the profession and practice of urban politics in their daily lives.

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  • Washington University
  • CB 1062
  • One Brookings Drive
  • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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