Dr. mr. David Napolitano

Assistant Professor
Medieval Culture

David Napolitano is attached as an Assistant Professor in Medieval History to the Department of History and Art History at Utrecht University (The Netherlands).

Building upon his parallel background in law, literature studies and history, his academic interest focuses on the transnational and transinstitutional study of a multilingual corpus of normative treatises on city government targeted at city magistrates (mirrors-for-magistrates).

To this end, he examines mirrors-for-magistrates originating from communal Italy to the cities of the Southern Low Countries and the Rhine Area. This corpus covers the three most urbanized areas of medieval Europe and stretches from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries (1200-1600). In addition, he compares these mirrors-for-magistrates to the better-known mirrors-for-princes genre, thus moving beyond the traditional dichotomy between monarchical and republican forms of government.

He is particularly interested in the promises and expectations of good government embedded in these texts and their role in building (or breaking) political trust in medieval cities. More specifically, he focuses on questions of authority and legitimacy within a city context (medieval narratives of secular power), the gradual development of a professional profile and a code of conduct for the city magistrates (setting of a benchmark), the expected active role of the citizenry within this institutional framework, and the design of different types of monitoring, accountability and sanction mechanisms (both to God and man). 

Moreover, he has developed a growing interest in the intricate relationship between these political texts on good government and urban material culture (art and architecture).

Linked to this interest in the building of political trust and issues of good government, he has also developed a second line of research, looking into the history of democracy. Together with Em. Prof. Dr Kenneth Pennington, he has edited a volume on medieval democracy for a six-part series, entitled "A Cultural History of Democracy",  under the general editorship of Prof. Dr Eugenio Biagini. Building upon this experience, he is now part of the core team at Utrecht University that has set up the IOS-platform Futures of Democracy to investigate democracy from different academic perspectives, to facilitate cross-disciplinary dialogue within and outside the university, and to translate research outcomes into targeted responses to the many challenges faced by liberal democracies today.

Finally, he is involved in the editing of medieval and early modern texts. More specifically, he is active within the Erasmus's Opera Omnia project (ASD). Having just completed an edition of the Apologiae tres contra Lutherum and the Apologiae contra Petrum Corsium, he is currently preparing an edition of the Ratio verae theologiae. Having confirmed the existence of a second copy of the Oculus pastoralis (1220s) untapped by its earlier editors (1741, 1966 and 1986), he is also in the process of preparing a new edition of this pivotal text, the oldest surviving representative of the podestà literature.