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Shell Games: Studies in Scams, Frauds, and Deceits (1300-1650)

As Michel de Montaigne pointed out, truth’s opposite has a hundred thousand shapes and a limitless field. The papers in this volume are thirteen examples of these hundred thousand shapes and serve as case studies in a potentially limitless field. Treating of instances from Italy, Spain, England, France, and the Empire, they are concerned with parochial and patriarchal networks of power. They deal with people on the margins of society, pushing and trying to manipulate boundaries; they deal with people at the very centre of power, endeavouring to conserve or enhance their position. They deal with the strong using lies to oppress the weak and the weak using lies as counter discourses. But at their heart, all of the papers in this collection raise crucial questions about the nature of truth as well as its construction and detection for pre-modern men and women. The perpetrators of these scams, their victims, and the authorities charged with policing them, all grapple with fundamental problems of the role of authority, power, status, gender, tradition, orality, and technology as they craft their schemes or plot their courses of action. In short, they highlight sites of social, political, and epistemological tension as Europe slowly moves from the medieval to the modern.

Mark Crane is a fellow at the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies at Victoria University where he is engaged in a project that examines the conjuncture of printing, education, and religious reform in Paris in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Richard Raiswell teaches early modern European history at St. Francis Xavier University. He is currently completing a book about English knowledge of India in the period immediately prior to the founding of the East India Company.

Margaret Reeves teaches humanities and literature in the School of Arts and Letters at York University and is currently working on a book-length project that examines satiric political discourse in seventeenth-century women’s fiction.

Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, Victoria University in the University of Toronto, 2004

Essays and Studies 4


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