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’m Director of the Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute.

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 with particular consideration of how these were shaped by Catholic reform and renewal, and by public health considerations. I am 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 Histories research group in the School of History.


  • Director, Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute
  • UoA Lead, School of History

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. Please see the project webpage for more details: Death in Early Modern Venice | School of History | University of Leeds

Key publications

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

  • ‘The ongoing impact of plague: memory, emotions and public health in early modern Venice’ (Liverpool, 2023)
  • ‘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)

Academic activities

I am a member of the Wellcome Trust's Medical Humanities Early-Career Award Interview Panel.

With Filippo de Vivo (Oxford) 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. The next meeting will take place in Manchester in May 2024. Please email me if you would like to be added to the mailing list.

<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

  • Juliet Atkinson (2021–present): ‘Gendered mobility and the identification of women in seventeenth-century London’
  • 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'.
  • 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'. 
  • Joshua Rushton (2019–23, PhD): ‘The sacred city: Urban devotion and Catholic reform in early modern Venice, 1545–1690’.
  • Giulia Zanon  (2016–20, PhD): 'Citizenship, social networks and artistic patronage in early modern Venice' (Leeds Anniversary Research Scholarship). Zanon is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.

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

Research groups and institutes

  • Health Histories

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>