Nicholas Baker

Associate Professor

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20062022

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Biography

Nicholas Scott Baker is an historian of the political and economic cultures of early modern Europe and the Mediterranean, with particular interests in Renaissance Italy, connections and exchanges between Italy and the Iberian world in the sixteenth century, and the use of visual sources in historical research. He has published on the political culture of Florence between the end of the republic and the creation of the Medici principality, and on the various cultures of financial risk taking in Renaissance Italy.


His most recent book is a cultural history that explores how Renaissance Italians thought about the future and, in particular, how ideas about the future changed around the turn of the sixteenth century. It explores understandings about the power of fortuna in human lives and ways these beliefs interacted with ideas about providence and human ability in the realms of commerce and gambling: In Fortune’s Theater: Financial Risk and the Future in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge University Press, 2021).


He continues to maintain an interest in and work on the political culture of Florence during the sixteenth century and on the cultural, political, and economic connections between the city and the Spanish world. As part of this interest, he is developing a new project that explores the Italian Renaissance from the perspective of sixteenth-century globalization. The project aims to produce a microhistory that examines the concurrent emergence of the first global economy with the establishment of a canon of visual art in central Italy by examining the fortunes of a family of merchants and art collectors in sixteenth-century Florence.

He has previously taught at the University of Melbourne in Australia, and at Northwestern University and Washington & Lee University in the United States. In 2013-14, he was the Jean-François Malle Fellow at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, Italy. From January to June 2018, he was a Member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.

Research interests

I am currently completing a cultural history of how Italians thought about the future during the Renaissance. This project explores understandings about the power of fortuna in human lives and ways these beliefs interacted with ideas about providence and human ability in the realms of commerce and gambling. I also continue to maintain an interest in and work on the political culture of Florence during the sixteenth century and cultural connections between the Medici court and the Spanish world. I am beginning a new project that aims to produce a microhistory of the Renaissance in a global perspective, examining the relationships between the wealth produced by the first global economy and the creation of a canon of visual art and literature in sixteenth-century Italy.

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