Christian De Vito

BiographyChristian De Vito

After graduating in History at the University of Florence, Italy, in 2008 I completed my PhD Contemporary History at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa and later worked on various post-PhD research projects.

I am honorary fellow at the International Institute of Social History (IISG) in Amsterdam, member of the editorial board of the International Social History Association (ISHA) newsletter, member of the executive board of the International Association on Strikes and Social Conflict, member of the board of the Società Italiana di Storia del Lavoro (SISLAV), member of the association Storie in Movimento.

I joined the School of History at the University of Leicester in September 2013, as research assistant on the ERC project CArchipelago (2013-18) coordinated by Prof. Clare Anderson.

Research Themes

In my past research I have primarily addressed four fields of Modern history. First, the history of punishment, where my interests have evolved from an Italian and prison-centred focus to a global perspective that looks at the connections among different forms of punishment and internment. Second, the history of psychiatry, with a focus on the way (anti-)psychiatric reform movement originated, developed and spread within and across the national borders. Third, labour history, my main interest in this field regarding the multiple (free and unfree) labour relationships that contributed to the process of labour commodification. Fourth, the history of social movements, with special focus on those involving welfare and educational professionals, on the one hand, and prisoners, psychiatric patients and factory workers on the other. Attention for the interconnections among these fields of research led me to the study of convict labour, which I see as a topic standing at the cross-road of various disciplines, issues and methodologies.

In approaching these fields of research I try to overcome sectorialism as well as Eurocentric and methodologically nationalist perspectives. I consider myself as a social and global historian, and contribute methodological and theoretical debates by suggesting the need of spatial awareness and long-term perspectives.

Current Research Project

Within the ERC project CArchipelago (2013-18) coordinated by Prof. Clare Anderson, my sub-project addresses the circulation of convicts to and within colonial and post-colonial Latin America, in connection to other (free and unfree) labour flows and other types of punishment. The focus lies on 18th century Spanish American presidios and post-independence penal colonies; the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador) form the key case-study as far as 19th and 20th centuries penal colonies are concerned.

Most recent publications

  1. (with Alex Lichtenstein), Writing a Global History of Convict Labour, in "International Review of Social History", 58, 2 (August 2013), pp. 285-325. Copyright: Cambridge University Press
  2. (ed.) New Perspectives on Global Labour History, special issue of the journal Workers of the World, May 2013

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