Indispensable immigrants recreates the world of peasants who streamed into the cities of late medieval and early modern northern Italy to carry crushingly heavy containers of wine. Written in an easily accessible and unassuming style, it is solidly grounded in previously untapped archival and visual sources. In this first-ever reconstruction of the forgotten metier of wine porter, topography plays a key role in forming the labour market; in the scramble to distinguish professionals from manual labourers the term artist gets divorced from lowly artisan, and wretched diet is invoked to explain why workers are so unintelligent; the wine porters make one of their own their patron saint in thirteenth-century Cremona and other interest groups scheme successfully to get him canonised in Rome five centuries later; and when enlightened despots abolish the guilds, the wine porters' trade fades away just as the candles on their patron's altars sputter and die out.
A long-forgotten trade and an unheard-of saint are brought to life in this tale of survival by hard work in the thriving cities of late medieval and early modern northern Italy. Indispensable immigrants recreates the world of peasants from the Alps and the Apennines who in order to survive came down to the cities of the Po Valley to work as wine porters. They joined the stream of labourers from the countryside whose willingness to do the heavy lifting that city dwellers preferred to avoid helped oil the wheels of the urban economy. Their counterparts of today have travelled greater distances to reach their new social and psychological environments, but the challenges they encounter are strikingly similar to those the porters faced long ago. Confronted with unrelenting mockery and disdain as well as low wages, the wine porters gained a measure of esteem - self-esteem at least - by making one of their own, Alberto of Villa d'Ogna, their patron saint, and keeping his cult alive for five centuries. During that half millennium, the wine porters and the cult of St Alberto sustained one another with what they both needed most, namely respect. Even though Alberto met the traditional, community-based expectations of a saint in the thirteenth century and then the profoundly different criteria for papal canonization five centuries later, once the wine porters became obsolete, both their work and his cult faded from memory.
Lester K. Little is Professor Emeritus of History at Smith College and a former Director of the American Academy in Rome
Biblio NotesPart I: Alberto
1. The legend of Saint Alberto
2. The life of Alberto
3. The afterlife of Alberto
Part II: The wine porters
4. The brenta and the brentatori
5. Topography and migration
6. Porters of the imagination
Part III: Sainthood
7. Making saints
8. Sainthood by community
9. Sainthood by the papacy
See More Information
Thank you for proceeding with this offer.
Manchester University Press has chosen to review this offer before it proceeds.
You will receive an email update that will bring you back to complete the process.
You can also check the status in the My Offers area
Please wait while the payment is being prepared. Do not close this window.