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Kate Lowe, ‘Black and Florentine: Documenting the mixed ancestry babies at the Innocenti in the second half of the fifteenth century’

Thursday 17 November 2022, 5.15PM

Speaker(s): Dr Kate Lowe, Queen Mary University of London.

This paper will focus on a consequence of the arrival in Renaissance Florence of small numbers of enslaved people from sub-Saharan Africa to work as domestic slaves: the women became pregnant and their babies were left at the foundling hospital of the Innocenti. Registering the arrival of babies born in Florence and its contado generated a set of documentation which over 500 years later allows analysis and reinterpretation. In addition to noting the earliest references to ‘black’ babies, and following the case studies of 2 enslaved West Africans and their children living in Florence (amongst others), issues of terminology and legal status will be addressed. Although the information about mixed ancestry babies is fragmentary, it is important for knowledge of the early African diaspora in Italy, of Renaissance Florentine attitudes to integration and assimilation and of response to perceived African difference.

Location: The Treehouse