Davide Martino

PhD Candidate

I am a PhD candidate at St John's College, supervised by Dr Richard Serjeantson. The provisional title of my thesis is 'Hydraulic philosophy in three early modern European cities'. My research is generously funded by a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

From October to December 2020, I was a Gastwissenschaftler (Visiting Scholar) at the Institut für Europäische Kulturgeschichte of the Universität Augsburg.
From April to July 2021, I am a Visiting Student at the Department of History and Civilisation of the European University Institute, Florence.

I completed my History BA (2016) and an Early Modern History MPhil (2017) at Cambridge. Prior to starting the PhD I worked as a primary school teacher for two years, and I remain passionate about the role of education in society.

My PhD is a study of hydraulic philosophy, that is, of the branch of early modern natural philosophy concerned with water. Both the production of hydraulic knowledge and its practical application happened in context; my thesis focuses on one of these contexts, early modern European cities. Three case-studies—Augsburg, Florence, and Amsterdam—are approached from an interdisciplinary perspective. First, borrowing from environmental history, urban centres are understood as terraqueous sites, where humans interacted with the surrounding environment, and viceversa. Second, the tools of art and cultural history are essential to understand the passion for fountains, hydraulic displays, and 'giochi d'acqua' which seized princely courts and mercantile polities alike. Third, the history of science and technology can explain how hydraulic machinery functioned, and how it developed over time.

Other interests include architectural history, global history, and innovative methodologies for the environmental humanities.

'Neptune and the Lech: The co-creation of borders in early modern Augsburg' - Monthly seminar of the Amsterdam Centre for Urban History (ACUH), Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA) - online, 15/04/2021.

'From tunnel to tower: The transfer of hydraulic expertise from mines to cities in early modern Europe' - RSA Virtual 2021: The 67th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America (RSA) - online, 13/04/2021.

‘Neptune and the Lech: An environmental history of the borders of early modern Augsburg’ - Postgraduate Conference of the German Historical Institute in London (GHIL) - online, 07/01/2021.

‘The lost fountains of Augsburg’ - International Researchers’ Scientific Talks, Universität Augsburg - online, 05/11/2020.

‘Who designed Weimar Castle?’ - Early Modern History Graduate Workshop (EMHGW) - Cambridge, 13/07/2020.

‘Crossing the Alps in the seventeenth century: the religious, linguistic, and gastronomic horizons of the de’ Servi family’ - Workshop on Migration & Multiculturalism (Cambridge Migration Research Network) - Cambridge, 06/03/2017.

Staged an adaptation of L. Pirandello’s Il gioco delle parti (1918) at the conference of The Society for Pirandello Studies - Christ Church College, Oxford, 15/10/2016.


Tags & Themes


St John's College


Key publications

'The 1618 Reconstruction Plan of the Weimar Residenzschloss by Costantino de’ Servi' in Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 83:2 (June 2020), 213-235.