Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Edward Muir


The dissertation examines reform in the enlightened state of Modena by looking at the opere pie, "pious works" which included dowries, health care, education and shelter for the poor. The Enlightenment is considered in a social and economic context, and social welfare is examined in terms of the familial, religious and civic piety which shaped these charities between 1690 and 1796. The study is constructed around the Araldi, a merchant family whose outstanding members (priests and physicians) rose rapidly in the Modenese administrative class during the eighteenth century. It examines the patronage network of the court and the university, and notes how this all-pervasive phenomenon limited the effectiveness of the Board of Sovereign Jurisdictions and reforms in the social welfare system. The Great Hospital and the Albergo of the Poor are the subjects of structural and administrative analysis. The work asks how this state, shaped as it was by the Christian Enlightenment concepts of Lodovico Antonio Muratori, dealt with the problems of abandoned children, female poverty, under-employment, sickness, and the potential social disruption of poverty among the upper orders. Although relations between reforming rulers and the hierarchy were often characterized by conflict and jealousy, the middle and lower clergy (exemplified by Don Battista Araldi, a protegee of Muratori) pursued the aims of the Christian Enlightenment with energy and enthusiasm. These clerics did not hesitate to form alliances with the state to achieve their common aims: cutting down the number of feast days, fighting superstition and ignorance, rationalizing Church administrative structures and generally attempting to revive Tridentine ideals and simple piety. Charity provided the link between Church and state in this city where poverty was, in effect, the main business of the municipality. In conclusion, the "new" ideas of the Enlightenment were superimposed on and shaped by the social, religious and civic values which had long been a part of people's daily lives. There is a clear progression from the Tridentine organization of social welfare at the beginning of the century towards a pragmatic, economically-oriented secular program by the late 1780s.