Dr Alex Bamji

Dr Alex Bamji


I hold a BA in History, MPhil in Historical Studies, and PhD in History from the University of Cambridge. I joined the School of History at Leeds in 2008. In 2018-19, I was Melville J Kahn Fellow at Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies.

I am a social and cultural historian of early modern Europe, with interests in cities, religion, gender and the history of medicine. My research focuses on religious reform, death and disease in early modern society. My current research project on 'Death in early modern Venice' explores mortality, funerary ritual, cemeteries, and the material culture of death, and sheds light on the distinctiveness of death in Venice through comparisons with the cities of Mantua, Milan and Nuremberg. I am also interested in how religious belief and practice shaped communities and the lives of individuals, and I have published on the 'Catholic life cycle'. My research has been supported by grants from the AHRC, British Academy/Leverhulme and Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. I am a member of the Health, Medicine and Society research group in the School of History.


  • Lead Tutor for Wellbeing

Research interests

Death in early modern Venice

Why did death and the dead matter so much to urban communities? Focusing on the city of Venice, my project evaluates the entanglement of death with religious and social change. I explore how people died and why certain causes of death provoked anxiety; highlight the materiality of the dead body and its movement through urban space; and interrogate the impact of familial self-fashioning, lay religiosity and mobility on changing experiences of death. Detailed comparisons with attitudes and practices in other European cities are a distinctive feature of this project. An Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Early Career Fellowship funded research in Mantua, Milan and Nuremberg, which has enabled comparisons of government motivations and an assessment of the impact of religious change on burial practices. A British Academy/Leverhulme Small Grant has supported research into confraternities, death and devotion.

Key Publications

Alexandra Bamji, ‘Blowing smoke up your arse: Drowning, resuscitation and public health in eighteenth-century Venice’, Bulletin of the History of Medicine 94:1 (2020): 29-63.

Alexandra Bamji, 'The materiality of death in early modern Venice', in Religious materiality in the early modern world, ed. by Suzanna Ivanic, Mary Laven, Andrew Morrall (Amsterdam University Press, 2019), pp. 119-135.

Alexandra Bamji, 'Marginalia and mortality in early modern Venice'Renaissance Studies 33:5 (2019): 808-831.

Alexandra Bamji, 'Health passes, print and public health in early modern Europe', Social History of Medicine 32:3 (2019): 441-464.

Alexandra Bamji, 'Medical care in early modern Venice', Journal of Social History 49:3 (2016): 483-509.

Alexandra Bamji, Linda Borean and Laura Moretti (eds), La chiesa e l'ospedale di San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti (Marcianum Press, 2015) [including co-authored introduction and sole-authored chapter, 'I protagonisti dei Mendicanti tra cura e carità’, pp. 47-64.]

Alexandra Bamji, Geert H. Janssen and Mary Laven (eds), The Ashgate Research Companion to the Counter-Reformation (Ashgate, 2013) [including sole-authored chapter, 'The Catholic life cycle' pp. 183-201.]

Alexandra Bamji, 'The control of space: dealing with diversity in early modern Venice', Italian Studies 62:2 (2007): 175-188.

Book reviews for Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Business History Review, Canadian Journal of HistoryCultural and Social History, English Historical Review, European History Quarterly, Forum ItalicumGerman History, History, Isis, Medical History, Medicina e storiaRenaissance QuarterlyRenaissance StudiesSocial History of Medicine, Women's History Review.

Recent Seminar and Conference Papers

‘Corpses, urban space and the Counter-Reformation in early modern Venice’ (Amsterdam, 2019; Manchester, 2019; London, 2020)

‘The economics of the corpse in early modern Venice’ (Dresden, 2019)

‘Smelling, seeing and touching death in early modern Venice’ (Birmingham, 2019)

'Dressing for purgatory: confraternities, embodied devotion and the Counter Reformation' (Cambridge, 2019)

'Drowning and resuscitation in early modern Venice' (Oxford, 2018; Venice, 2018)

'Scribes, flyleaves and death registers in early modern Venice' (Sheffield, 2018)

'Confraternities, death and devotion in early modern Venice' (New Orleans, 2018) 

‘Materiality and mutability: bodies and death in early modern Catholicism’ (Coventry, 2017)

'Sudden death in early modern Venice' (Cambridge, 2017; UEA, 2017; Edinburgh, 2016)

'Print, public health and power in early modern Venice' (Nashville, 2017)

Academic Activities

I am a member of the Wellcome Trust's Medical Humanities Early Career Expert Review Group.

With Filippo de Vivo (Birkbeck) and Mary Laven (Cambridge), I convene the Venetian Seminar, an annual interdisciplinary conference which brings together scholars of history, art history, literature and linguistics who study Venice and Italy. Please email me if you would like to be added to the mailing list.

With Laura King (Leeds), I co-organised a conference entitled 'Birth: personal stories to population policies' at the University of Leeds on 18-19 September 2014. For more details, see: http://www.birth.leeds.ac.uk/

With Linda Borean (Udine) and Laura Moretti (St Andrews), I co-organised a major international conference on the church and hospital of San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti in Venice: 'La Chiesa e l'Ospedale di San Lazzaro dei Mendicanti: Arte, Beneficenza, Cura, Devozione, Educazione', Venice, 6-7 December 2013.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD in History
  • MPhil in Historical Studies
  • BA in History

Student education

I am passionate about research-led teaching, and believe that close analysis of primary source material is invaluable at all levels of study. My teaching is inspired by my interests in the history of Venice and the histories of medicine, gender and the body. I seek to offer students opportunities to engage with an exciting array of texts, images and objects, including diaries, paintings, travel journals, legislation and costume books. I encourage students to reflect on change and continuity over time, and to approach the past on its own terms.

Postgraduate Supervision

Current PhD students

Harriet Harmer (2018-present): 'Feared and revered: The impact of the written word on conceptions of violent death in late Enlightenment England'

Joshua Rushton (2019-present): ‘Conceptualising the sacred: Catholic reform and lay devotion in early modern Venice, 1550-1650’

Claire Turner (2019-present): ‘Sensing the plague in seventeenth-century England’

Past research students

Alexandra Anderson (2011-18, PhD): 'Writing the history of the English monarchy: Franco-British historiographical cultures, 1688-1788'. Anderson is currently Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Sheffield.

Ning Kang (2013-14, MA by Research): 'Statutes in medieval Venetian guilds'. Kang subsequently completed a PhD at Peking University and is now a lecturer at the People's Public Security University of China.

Giovanni Pozzetti  (2014-18, PhD): 'Diet and health in early modern England and Italy: A comparative study of the theoretical and practical understandings of humoral principles' (WRoCAH studentship network 'Cultures of Consumption in Early Modern Europe')

Claire Rennie  (2012-16, PhD): 'The care of sick children in eighteenth-century England'. 

Giulia Zanon  (2016-20, PhD): 'Citizenship, social networks and artistic patronage in early modern Venice' (Leeds Anniversary Research Scholarship)

I welcome enquiries from potential research students with interests in the following areas:

  • the cultural, social and religious history of early modern Italy
  • the histories of death, health and medicine in early modern Europe

Our MA programmes

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>