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Dr Melissa Calaresu

Dr Melissa Calaresu

Director of Studies and Lecturer in History

Gonville & Caius College
Cambridge CB2 1TA

Departments and Institutes

Gonville & Caius College:

Research Interests

I am a cultural historian who originally trained as a historian of political thought in Cambridge. My work moves between my current interest in material culture and, most broadly, the history of ideas in early modern Europe. I am writing a cultural history of the Neapolitan enlightenment for which I recently received a Newton Trust award for 2016 in order to complete it. This book project has grown out of my doctoral dissertation on Francesco Mario Pagano and the political culture of late eighteenth-century Naples, combined with newer interests on the material interests of the European reform movement.  My recent work includes the history of ice and ice-cream in eighteenth-century Italy which explores some of the recent paradigms of enlightenment historiography. This, in turn, has led to research on food-sellers in history and I am currently completing a volume chapter on Ambrogio Brambilla and the representation of food-selling in early modern Rome.  My more general research interests range from the uses and representation of urban space in the early modern period, the history of street food, eighteenth-century antiquarianism, collecting and historical writing in Italy and Spain, and travel and the Grand Tour in Europe through texts and images in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

I have recently been involved with several collaborative research projects with colleagues in and out of Cambridge.

I  was one of the curators of an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum. Treasured Possessions from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment runs from Tuesday 24 March to Sunday 6 September 2015, with Vicky Avery at the Fitzwilliam Museum and Mary Laven and Ulinka Rublack at the Faculty of History in Cambridge. The exhibition, which grew out of an undergraduate course, showcased the extraordinary collection of applied arts in the museum and placed more than 200 objects within a new cultural history of early modern Europe. For press coverage of the exhibition, see reviews in The Telegraph and The Economist as well as an interview on Woman's Hour.

An AHRC-funded network grant with Helen Hills of the University of York produced a volume of essays, entitled, New Approaches to Naples c.1500-c.1800: The power of place  in 2013.  This project led to the launch of a new website, Neapolitan Network  and the creation of a new network of Neapolitanists working in diverse fields, including history and art history, history of science, musicology, anthropology, and urban sociology. Another research project, with Danielle van den Heuvel at the University of Kent, focuses on street-sellers in history and contemporary society. A co-edited volume entitled Food Hawkers: Selling Food in the Streets from Antiquity to the Present Day includes contributions from experts in musicology, economics, anthropology, and classics and will be published in June 2016. Other research projects include the creation and organisation, with Mary Laven and Robert Gordon, of the Cambridge Italian Research Network, which brings together researchers working on Italian topics across the university, and an on-going collaboration with the Graduate Research Group at CRASSH on Things. Finally, I was a visiting scholar at the Department of Early Modern History at the University of Barcelona in 2013 and I hope to continue collaboration with early modern Spanish historians there. I have also held a visiting fellowship at Stanford University in March 2016.

Research Supervision

I am currently supervising two doctoral students. Lavinia Maddaluno is currently working on agriculture and political economy in late eighteenth-century Lombardy and Felix Waldmann is writing a dissertation entitled, Antonio Genovesi, the ‘Scuola Genovesiana’, and moral philosophy in the Kingdom of Naples, 1734-1792’. In the past, I have supervised Master’s dissertations on a variety of subjects including travel and the Grand Tour in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, enlightenment and political economy in eighteenth-century Italy, royal dining in eighteenth-century England, and the eighteenth-century Neapolitan painter Gaspare Traversi.  Areas of research supervision are in eighteenth-century Italian intellectual and cultural history including Travel and the Grand Tour and more general topics on early modern Naples and the history of food.

I am always happy to hear from prospective graduate students interested in working on intellectual and urban history, the history of the Grand Tour, and the history of food.


I am currently on leave until January 2017. Normally, I teach undergraduates across a variety of European history papers from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries with a special focus on the cultural, social, and intellectual history of Italy, Spain and France.  I am particularly keen for students to use and interpret primary printed sources including contemporary literature as well as visual sources and objects.  For Part I, I have co-organised a Themes and Sources option on the 'History of Collecting' for a number of years.  For Part II, I teach the paper on 'Material culture in the early modern world'. 

I am co-convenor of the Comparative Social and Cultural History Seminar with Peter Burke, Mary Laven, and Ulinka Rublack. I am also co-convenor of the Early Modern European History Seminar with Mary Laven and Ulinka Rublack. 

For Michaelmas 2015, I was awarded a Mellon Teaching Fellowship at the Centre for Disciplinary Innovation at CRASSH, along with Professor John Robb in the Department of Archaeology, to teach a graduate seminar, entitled, Material culture: Crossing disciplines and analysing things’.


  • Early Modern History

Key Publications