Mining private writings and humanist texts, Erin Maglaque explores the lives and careers of two Venetian noblemen, Giovanni Bembo and Pietro Coppo, who were appointed as colonial administrators and governors. In Venice’s Intimate Empire, she uses these two men and their families to showcase the relationship between humanism, empire, and family in the Venetian Mediterranean.
Maglaque elaborates an intellectual history of Venice’s Mediterranean empire by examining how Venetian humanist education related to the task of governing. Taking that relationship as her cue, Maglaque unearths an intimate view of the emotions and subjectivities of imperial governors. In their writings, it was the affective relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, humanist teachers and their students that were the crucible for self-definition and political decision making. Venice’s Intimate Empire thus illuminates the experience of imperial governance by drawing connections between humanist education and family affairs. From marriage and reproduction to childhood and adolescence, we see how intimate life was central to the Bembo and Coppo families’ experience of empire. Maglaque skillfully argues that it was within the intimate family that Venetians’ relationships to empire—its politics, its shifting social structures, its metropolitan and colonial cultures—were determined.