My interests cover a variety of topics related to daily life in the later Middle Ages and into the Early Modern period in Europe: the roles of women, gender performance, food and food exchange, and the importance of social ties in accomplishing one’s daily tasks, especially for the non-elite. Basically, I am interested in how people understood and interacted with the world around them in order to meet their daily needs, whether physical, economic, or social.
My research focuses on the intersections of social networks, gender, and identity, specifically among non-elites in Florence in the early 1400s and comparatively. I am particularly interested in the marriage strategies of non-elite Florentine artisans. The marriage formation strategies of artisans differed from those of the elite but largely sought to achieve the same goals, forming social ties that cemented or increased one’s social status. I have written numerous conference papers and journal articles exploring the topics of gender, family relations, and the role of women in the broader social network.
I teach a range of undergraduate courses covering the span of European history before 1800, with a particular focus on Western Europe during the Medieval and Early Modern period (approx. 400-1800 AD). In each of my courses, I seek to make both the major events and daily life of premodern Europe come alive for my students, encouraging them to consider what they learn from the perspective of those we are studying while challenging them to move beyond what they think they know about both the past and the world around them.
Dr. Bender was recently named a Notable Global Learning Faculty Member: