Dr. Carrie Beneš

Professor of History

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Ace 106


Social Science 102


A.B., Harvard University
M.A., Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles

Professor Beneš is a cultural historian specializing in late medieval Italy. Her main research interests involve intellectual networks and the construction of history as a means to identity: specifically, how people throughout history have used and manipulated the past to suit their own ends. Her first book, _Urban Legends: Italian Civic Identity & the Classical Past, 1250–1350_ (2011) explored the use of the classical Roman past as political propaganda in the medieval Italian city-states. More recently, she was the general editor of (and contributor to) _A Companion to Medieval Genoa_ (2018) and the translator of _Jacopo da Varagine’s Chronicle of the City of Genoa, 1298_ (2019). She is presently working on a second monograph on the changing role of the classical SPQR abbreviation in the politics, ideology, and iconography of medieval and Renaissance Italy. At the same time, she is involved in a collaborative digital project on the surviving manuscripts of the 1435 treatise _La sfera_ (The Globe), a cosmological and navigational treatise by the Florentine merchant Gregorio Dati.

Professor Beneš’s other academic interests include book history (palaeography, codicology, illumination, and the history of libraries), Italian humanism, the history and historiography of the Renaissance, urban history, premodern travel, and historical epidemiology (especially the plague). She offers courses on these subjects as well as general surveys of the medieval, Renaissance, and early modern periods. She is especially interested in digital humanities approaches such as data mapping, visualization, and GIS. She has received numerous professional honors including a Post-Doctoral Rome Prize at the American Academy in Rome, Italy.

Recent Courses

Death, Hell, and Capitalism: Medieval Italy in the Age of Dante & Petrarch
Ancient Rome: History and Legacy
The Global Middle Ages: Travel and Cultural Exchange before the “Age of Exploration”
Norman Conquests of the Medieval World
Role-Playing Politics & Religion in the Renaissance
The Black Death
Historical Methods

Recent News

Meeting A Medieval Manuscript

A medievalist’s modern perspective on plague

CYC: A refreshed curriculum rolls out this fall

Selected Publications


A Companion to Medieval Genoa, contributor and general editor (Brill, 2018).

Jacopo da Varagine’s Chronicle of the City of  Genoa (1298), translator (Manchester University Press, 2019).

Urban Legends: Civic Identity & the Classical Past, 1250-1350 (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011).


“The Blackbird, the Basilisk, and the Evicted Corpse: Sacralizing Landscape in Jacopo da Varagine’s Genoese Relic Treatises.” Visions of Medieval History in North America and Europe. Studies on Cultural Identity and Power in Honor of Patrick J. Geary (Brepols, 2022)

“Medieval Civic Encomium: A Theme and Variations in Praise of Italian Cities”, co-authored with Laura Morreale in The Routledge Companion to Literary Urban Studies (Routledge, 2022).

“A Geospatial La Sfera: Navigating the Renaissance in the Mediterranean,” co-authored with Caterina Agostini, in 5th ACM SIGSPATIAL International Workshop on Geospatial Humanities (2021), 22–27.

“Ancient and Most Noble: Catalogues of City Foundation in Fourteenth-Century Italy,” in Medieval Manuscripts, Their Makers and Users: Essays in Honor of Richard and Mary Rouse (Brepols, 2011).

“Whose SPQR? Sovereignty and Semiotics in Medieval Rome.” Speculum 84 (2009), 874–904.

“Many Januses in Search of Unity: Defining Civic Identity in Genoa, 1257-1312.” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History, 3rd Ser., 6 (2009), 53-92.

“Mapping a Roman Legend: The House of Cola di Rienzo from Piranesi to Baedeker.” Italian Culture 26 (2008), 53-83.

“Debunking the Dinosaur Myth: A Case for Palaeography and the Undergraduate Curriculum.” Medieval Academy News 158 (Fall 2007), 10.

“The Appearance and Spread of the E-Cedilla.” Manuscripta 43/44 (1999-2000), 1-43.

“Cola di Rienzo and the Lex Regia.” Viator 30 (1999), 231-252.