Nicholas Scott Baker, "In Fortune's Theater: Financial Risk and the Future in Renaissance Italy" (Cambridge UP, 2021)

New Books in Italian Studies

May 26 2023 • 58 mins

In this episode, I was joined by Nicholas Scott Baker to discuss his book, In Fortune’s Theater: Financial Risk and the Future in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge University Press, 2021). Professor Baker is an Associate Professor of history at Macquarie University in Sydney Australia interested in the political and economic cultures of early modern Europe and the Mediterranean, with a particular focus on Renaissance Italy. In this fascinating new book, Professor Baker reveals how Renaissance Italians developed a new concept of the future as unknown time-yet-to-come. As In Fortune’s Theater makes clear, nearly everyone in Renaissance Italy seemingly had the future on their minds. Authorities in important commercial hubs such as Genoa, Venice, Rome, and Florence legislated against overzealous betting on the future. Merchants filled their commercial correspondence with a lexicon of futurity. Famed painters such as Caravaggio, Giorgio Vasari, and Paolo Veronese manipulated the existing iconography of the figure of Fortuna into a moral allegory about unseized opportunity. And seemingly every important Renaissance Italian intellectual including Petrarch, Dante, Christine de Pizan, Poggio Bracciolini, Leon Battista Alberti, Laura Cereta, Giovanni Pontano, Niccolò Machiavelli, Francesco Guicciardini, and Baldassare Castiglione cared deeply about time-yet-to-come. Baker’s book is a rich, multilayered examination of the problems of risk, fortune, and the future in the Renaissance, and it should have broad appeal to anyone interested in the economic and political culture of early modern Europeans. Michael Paul Martoccio is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison specializing in the economic and military historian of the early modern Mediterranean. I am especially interested in how early modern economic practices – consumerism, market culture, and the commercialization of war – shaped notions of sovereignty, territoriality, and political geography. If you have a title to suggest for this podcast, please contact him at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!