The Medici and the Perception of Sub-Saharan Africa - Sponsored by the Samuel H.Kress Foundation

Alessio  Assonitis's picture
June 2, 2022 to June 3, 2022
Subject Fields: 
African History / Studies, Black History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Early Modern History and Period Studies, Italian History / Studies


Made possible thanks to the generous support of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

The Medici Archive Project, Palazzo Alberti, Florence. 2-3 JUNE 2022. 

The place of sub-Saharan Africa in Europe in the period 1450-1700 has always been less studied than the place of the Levant, North Africa or Asia, and why this should be so is one of the reasons for the conference. The so-called global turn in history has rightly moved interactions, connections, projections and relationships between the two center-stage. By focusing on Medici connections to Africa over two and a half centuries, the index of possible perceptions and understandings, as well as changes in interest and intervention over time, should become apparent. Desirous of competing with other courts, the Medici set up bureaucratic and diplomatic systems that allowed them access to global news and affairs, and their archival records are threaded with snippets about sub-Saharan Africa and its products, much of which has not been analyzed. How did various Medici rulers conceive of Africa? What use did they make of its constituent parts in their collections? Vectors of information about sub-Saharan Africa were human – reports by people who had been there – as well as diagrammatic – maps of the regions or the whole continent, but information remained at a premium, myth and misinformation were rife, and ignorance remained high. Everything African will be considered: from the importation and use of raw materials and foodstuffs, such as gold, ivory and pepper, to the acquisition of animals, plants and African decorative objects, and the inclusion of enslaved Africans at court.

For the program :
Seats will be available on the day on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are NOT mandatory but if you would like to confirm your attendance, please email:

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