Davide Martino

PhD Graduate
Davide Martino

I am a recent PhD graduate from St John's College. Currently, I am a postdoctoral researcher in architectural history at the Universität Bern, Switzerland.

I completed my dissertation on 'Hydraulic philosophy in early modern European cities', supervised by Dr Richard Serjeantson, in 2023. My research was generously funded by a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

From June to November 2022, I served as Postgraduate (PhD) Representative for the History Faculty.
From September 2021 to March 2022, I was an Associate Researcher at the Amsterdam Centre for Urban History (ACUH), Universiteit van Amsterdam.
From April to July 2021, I was a Visiting Student at the Department of History and Civilisation of the European University Institute (EUI), Florence.
From October to December 2020, I was a Gastwissenschaftler (Visiting Scholar) at the Institut für Europäische Kulturgeschichte of the Universität Augsburg.
In 2020–21, I was a co-convenor of the Cambridge postgraduate Workshop for the Early Modern Period (WEMP).

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.

I lecture and supervise for Part IA Outline Paper 5 ('Europe in the World, ca 1450-1780'), Part I Paper 16 ('European history, 1450–1760'), as well as for HAP ('Historical Argument and Practice') and the History of Art Department. I have also advised students taking Themes & Sources option (ii) ('Royal and princely courts: ancient, medieval and early modern'), and students translating primary sources from Italian for BA and MPhil dissertations.

In 2019, I completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) in 'Leadership in Learning - Primary'. I obtained Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in July 2018, and completed my Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) year in July 2019. Since 2020, I have mentored trainee teachers with the charity Insegnare per l'Italia - Teach for Italy.

‘Measuring water: Pilgram Marpeck, Elias Holl and the capacity of containers’ - WasserWissen / Cultures de l’Eau workshop - Institut für Europäische Kulturgeschichte (IEK), Universität Augsburg, Germany, 5–7/10/2023.

‘Knowledge Streams: Im/mobility of Hydraulic Knowledge in Early Modern European Cities’ - conference of the ERC project 'Water Cultures of Italy, 1500–1900' - Venice, Italy, 13–15/09/2023.

‘How do we become environmental historians?’, roundtable co-organiser and co-chair - 12th European Society for Environmental History (ESEH) Conference: ‘Mountains and Plains’ - Bern, Switzerland, 2226/08/2023.

‘Windlasses, pistons, and valves: machine books as records of early modern practical knowledge’ as part of Panel 9.2 ‘Useful tools. The role of practical knowledge in the development of early modern hydraulic expertise’ - Scientiae 2023 conference - Prague, Czechia, 710/06/2023.

‘Hydraulic philosophy in early modern European cities’ - Early Modern Philosophy and the Scientific Imagination Seminar (EMPHASIS), School of Advanced Studies, University of London - London, 13/05/2023.

‘Fluid borders and their unstable equilibrium in sixteenth-century Augsburg’ - Oceanic & Maritime History Workshop, Faculty of History, University of Cambridge - online, 11/11/2022.

'Fountains: Technology and fashion in the urban gardens of early modern Europe' - Final AQUA Conference, CIUHCT AQUA project - Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal/online, 2627/09/2022.

‘Experts and engineers: the figure of the hydraulic philosopher in early modern cities’ - Tag der Europäischen Kulturgeschichte: 'Kultur- und Wissensgeschichte des Wassers' - Institut für Europäische Kulturgeschichte (IEK), Universität Augsburg, Germany, 11/07/2022.

‘The sources of hydraulic knowledge: the formation of hydraulic experts in the southern German lands, c. 1550–1650’ - Panel #62: ‘Akteure wasserbaulichen Wissens und institutioneller Wandel im Heiligen Römischen Reich (ca. 1500-1800)’ - 6th Journées Suisses d’Histoire / Schweizerische Geschichstage: ‘La nature / Natur’ - Geneva, Switzerland, 29/06–01/07/2022.

‘Live(ly) machines: Fountains and automata in the urban gardens of early modern Europe’ - 2nd Mechanic Vitality Workshop, Writing Technologies Network, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH), University of Oxford - Oxford/online, 30/05/2022.

'Neptune's Empire: Art, Confession, and Statecraft in Transalpine Europe, ca. 15301618' jointly with Freddie Crofts; co-chair of 'Religious and Civic Spectacle' panel - 68th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America (RSA) - Dublin, Ireland, 30/0302/04/2022.

'Fountains: Technology and fashion in the urban gardens of early modern Europe' - Early Modern World History Workshop, University of Cambridge - Cambridge, 17/03/2022.

Co-chair of ‘Fickle waters, resilient societies?’ roundtable at the symposium ‘Beyond missed opportunities: a history of sustainability in the Low Countries’ - Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) / Bijdragen en Mededelingen Betreffende de Geschiedenis der Nederlanden (BMGN), Amsterdam - online, 04/02/2022.

‘Hydraulische Philosophie in frühneuzeitlichen Städte: Europäischer Wissensaustausch am Beispiel Augsburg’ - Oberseminar ‘Perspektiven der Frühneuzeitforschung’, Universität Augsburg - online, 02/02/2022.

‘From tunnel to tower: the transfer of hydraulic expertise from mines to cities in early modern Europe’ - 2nd AQUA Workshop, CIUHCT AQUA project - Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal/online, 26/11/2021.

‘Liquid streets: early modern waterways in urban spaces’ - Colloquium ‘A Rua na Estrutura Urbana | The Street in the City Structure’ - Faculdade de Letras de Universidade do Porto - Porto, Portugal, 11–13/11/2021.

‘Harnessing turbulent rivers: Augsburg, the Lech and the Wertach, c. 1450–1750’ - Panel on ‘German Citites in Turbulent Times’ sponsored by the Environmental Studies Network - 45th Annual Conference of the German Studies Association (GSA) - Indianapolis/online, 02/10/2021.

‘Turning a (blind) wet eye: confessional heterodoxy among hydraulic experts’ - 8th annual workshop, DAAD-Cambridge Hub funded Network Religious Knowledge in the Early Modern World, Universität Tübingen & University of Cambridge - online, 14/09/2021.

‘The sources of early modern hydraulic philosophy’ - History of Science Working Group, Department of History and Civilization, European University Institute (EUI) - Florence, 16/06/2021.

‘Agostino del Riccio and early modern hydraulic philosophy' - Early modernists’ group meeting, Department of History and Civilization, European University Institute (EUI) - online, 08/06/2021.

Chair of ‘Food in colonial contexts’ panel - 2nd EUI Conference in Visual and Material Culture Studies, ‘Scandalous Feasts and Holy Meals: Food in Medieval and Early Modern Societies’ - online, 25–26/05/2021.

'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' - Panel on ‘Subterranean Fictions: early modern underworlds and otherworlds’ - 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.


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St John's College



van Dam, P.J.E.M., et al. (2022), Fickle waters, resilient societies? A roundtable on resilience, sustainability and water history around the North Sea [roundtable discussion]. ‘Beyond missed opportunities: a history of sustainability in the Low Countries’ symposium, NIAS Amsterdam, 4 February 2022. https://www.academia.edu/105948829.

‘Neptun und der Lech: flüssige Grenzen und ihr instabiles Gleichgewicht im frühneuzeitlichen Augsburg’ in Mitteilungen des Instituts für Europäische Kulturgeschichte 27 (2022), pp. 11–32. urn:nbn:de:bvb:384-opus4-955368.

‘The Veneto: crossroads between Germany and Italy / Il Veneto, crocevia fra Germania e Italia’ in Howard, D. (ed.), Proto-industrial architecture of the Veneto in the age of Palladio / Architettura proto-industriale del Veneto nell’età di Palladio (Vicenza: Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio & Roma: Officina Libraria, 2021), pp. 93–103.

'The 1618 Reconstruction Plan of the Weimar Residenzschloss by Costantino de’ Servi' in Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 83:2 (June 2020), pp. 213235. https://doi.org/10.1515/ZKG-2020-2003.