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Sophie Hartles

History, University of Warwick

Thesis title:

Laughter and Violence in the Italian Renaissance: The Physical and Emotional Abuse of the �beffa�, c. 1400-1600

My doctoral project, Laughter and Violence in the Italian Renaissance: The Physical and Emotional Abuse of the beffa, investigates the violent culture of the Italian Renaissance through the analysis of the beffa. This was a cruel practical joke that was enjoyed and laughed at by many contemporaries while also physically and emotionally abusive. My interest in the beffa originated from my master’s dissertation at Manchester, Cruel Jokes, Friendship and Masculinity: A Cultural History of the Early Modern Italian Courts, which examined what the beffa could reveal about elite male sociability, masculine values, and the sinister nature of the Italian courts.

This current project provides the opportunity to examine the beffa more substantively, particularly its relation to violence and to incorporate other variables such as women and men of lower classes. I am interested in Bologna and Venice as case studies and in methods from cultural history, microhistory, and the history of emotions. I will be particularly looking at instances of the beffa in judicial records, works of literature, cheap print, art, and architecture, to gain a broader understanding of how laughter and violence intertwined in this culture and what this can reveal about their values, practices, interpersonal interactions, etc.

Research Area

  • History

Public Engagement & Impact

  • Presenter at Renaissance Centre Postgraduate Open Day (3 Nov 2020)
  • Presenter at Warburg-Warwick Doctoral forum: "My PhD in 3 minutes" (11 May 2021)

Other Research Interests

  • History of emotions
  • Social and cultural history
  • Microhistory
  • Gender history
  • History of beliefs about the human body
  • Historical theory and historiography


2017-2018: MA History, University of Manchester (Distinction)

2014-2017: BA History (Renaissance Stream), University of Warwick (First Class Honours)

Training and Professional Development

Research specific training
  • Italian Paleography, University of Warwick (Oct-Dec 2020)
  • Warburg-Warwick Doctoral Training event (10-14 May 2021)
  • STVDIO Research Seminar Series, Renaissance Centre, University of Warwick (2020 - present)
  • Early Career Club Seminar Series, Renaissance Centre, University of Warwick (2020 - present)
Language training
  • Italian for Historians, University of Warwick (2014-2016)
  • Italian Intermediate Accelerated, University of Warwick (Oct 2020 - May 2021)
  • Bologna-Warwick Virtual Erasmus Exchange, University of Warwick, 5 weeks (Nov-Dec 2020)
  • German for Academic purposes, University of Warwick (Nov 2020 - May 2021)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Latin, Warburg Institure, London (Oct 2021-present)
Professional development
  • Collections Interpretation Assistant, Chetham’s Library, Manchester (Nov 2017 - Mar 2018)
  • Summer Exhibition Intern, Fashion and Textiles Museum, London (Jun-Jul 2015)
  • Research Volunteer, The Dockland's Trail, Liverpool (Nov 2013 - Aug 2014)

Additional Responsibilities

Early Career Club, University of Warwick, co-organiser (2020-present)

A series of seminars directed at doctoral students, research fellows and teaching fellows which addresses issues related to practical aspects of academic life (such as publishing, presenting at conferences, applying for jobs, etc.).