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Humanism and Colonial Governance in the Venetian Ageaen: The Case of Giovanni Bembo

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In this article, I examine the autobiographical writing and reading practices of Giovanni Bembo, a colonial governor posted to Skopelos and Skiathos in the Aegean in 1525. During his term as rettore in the Aegean, Bembo’s scribe had an affair with his daughter and helped her to abort her ensuing pregnancy. Bembo then ordered the scribe to be publicly castrated. In the aftermath of this violent act, Bembo was blacklisted from any further governmental position in Venice. In his autobiographical letter, written ten years after the events on Skiathos, Bembo reflects on his role in the colonial Aegean, using textual practices that he learned in Venetian humanist schools during adolescence. I argue that in Bembo’s autobiographical writing and annotations, we can see the ways in which humanist education shaped the Venetian patrician colonial administrator’s experience and practice of governance in the Aegean.

Affiliations: 1: Oriel College, University of Oxford


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