UVU Professor, Students Attend Conference in Toronto

Historians from around the world gathered at York University and the University of Toronto on November 1, 2, and 3 to discuss their shared love — stories. John Hunt, a history and political science professor at UVU helped organize the Making Stories in the Early Modern World Conference, intended to honor the careers of Elizabeth and Thomas Cohen, professors at York University. 

“The purpose of this conference is to celebrate the careers of the Cohens through over 50 papers that tell the stories of common folk in the Renaissance,” said Hunt. “Elizabeth and Tom have published path-breaking articles on the women and men of Renaissance Rome, and they’ve counseled me in the historian’s craft since 2004. The voice of these people — artisans, courtesans, and slaves — has often been understudied.”

Working with John Christopoulos, a fellow historian from the University of British Columbia, Hunt brought together over 50 scholars — from established names in the field to up-and-coming graduate students — to present at this conference. They were also able to secure a prestigious grant from the Social Studies and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

“This conference took a lot of work, but it was a smashing success,” said Hunt. “It was truly a labor of love in honor of my two mentors. It was a fantastic gathering of the scholars of Italian Renaissance social history.”

Several UVU history students also accompanied Hunt to the conference in Canada. Kensley Hatch, Mary Webb, Asierleigh Richards, and Sophie Stevens were invited to learn about the art of storytelling in the Renaissance.

“History shows the development of our world, which I think is fascinating and important to understand so that our present decisions can be educated from the lessons of the past,” said Hatch. “I love learning about diversity and times that are different than what I am familiar with. It was so exciting to be in a place of open dialogue, where respected people in the field shared what they have been working on.”

Hunt was also accompanied by Nathan Van Aken, who is working with Hunt on his senior thesis in history.

“I’ve always loved history, and I want to help others learn to love the subject as well,” said Van Aken. “It was so interesting to meet with professors and grad students at this conference and learn more about how to get into grad school in the process.” 

 Hunt also presented at the conference, discussing his paper about a circle of gamblers that included two brothers from a prominent noble Venetian family, a renegade friar from Istria, several artisans, and a witch. “This group used witchcraft to sway the election to the Great Council of Venice so they could place winning bets on its outcome,” said Hunt. “My paper demonstrated how commoners and nobles alike could form ephemeral alliances in the Renaissance for mutual gain and leisure. It also shows how prevalent election manipulation was in the 1600s.”