Roberto Sabatino Lopez
Roberto Sabatino Lopez (October 8, 1910 – July 6, 1986), also known as Robert S. Lopez, was an Jewish-Italian-American historian of medieval European economic history. He taught for many years at Yale University as a Sterling Professor of History with a great passion also for the history of the Commons in Italy and Europe in general.
Early life and education
Roberto Sabatino Lopez was born in Genoa, Italy. He received a doctorate from the University of Milan in 1932 and taught medieval history at various universities in Italy until 1939, when he fled Benito Mussolini's regime to go to the United States. Hoping to find employment at an American university, Lopez enrolled in the graduate history program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which awarded him a Ph.D in 1942.
Early work in the United States
From 1942 to 1944 Lopez worked in the Italian section of the Office of War Information in New York City. There he met his future wife, Claude-Anne Kirschen, a wartime refugee from Belgium who had come to New York with her family in 1940. He afterward maintained that his successful courtship of her was his supreme wartime accomplishment.
Marriage and family
He married Claude-Anne Kirschen in 1946. They had two sons, Michael and Lawrence, after moving to New Haven, Connecticut.
Resumption of academic career
In 1946, Lopez was hired as an assistant professor at Yale. He rose through the academic ranks to full professor. He was honored by selection as a Sterling Professor of History, a recognition of his academic contributions.
At Yale, in 1962 Lopez founded the interdisciplinary graduate program in Medieval Studies, and served as its chairman for many years. Originally a master's program, it awarded doctorates by 1965. When founded, it was the third such medieval studies program in the United States.
Lopez trained a number of distinguished medieval scholars, among them David Herlihy, Edward M. Peters, and Patrick J. Geary. Lopez retired from the Yale faculty in 1981 after 35 years at the university.
Lopez's main contributions to the field were in the history of trade and commerce in the medieval Mediterranean. He was particularly interested in showing the dynamism and creativity of medieval towns and economic networks. Other scholars had frequently compared unfavorably to those of the Renaissance and early modern period.
In his best-known book, The Commercial Revolution of the Middle Ages (1971, with numerous reprints), Lopez argued that the key contribution of the medieval period to European history was the creation of a commercial economy. He said it was first based in the Italo-Byzantine eastern Mediterranean, but eventually extended to the Italian city-states and through the rest of Europe. Lopez noted that it was the Renaissance period that was characterized by economic decline. Lopez's scholarship was underpinned by his expert knowledge of medieval agriculture, industry and especially coinage.
- Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World (edited with Irving W. Raymond) (1955; 2nd ed. 1969)
- The Tenth Century: How Dark the Dark Ages? (1959)
- The Birth of Europe (1966)
- The Three Ages of the Italian Renaissance (1970)
- The Commercial Revolution of the Middle Ages (1971)
- Byzantium and the World around It: Economic and Institutional Relations (1978)
- The Shape of Medieval Monetary History (1986)
- Medieval Studies Program, Yale University, 2008
- Edward M. Peters
- Robert S. Lopez, "Hard Times and Investment in Culture," in The Renaissance: A Symposium (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1953), pp. 19-32; reprinted in Karl H. Dannenfeldt (ed.), The Renaissance: Medieval or Modern? (Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, 1959), pp. 50-63, and in Wallace K. Ferguson et al., The Renaissance: Six Essays (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1962), pp. 29-54. See also Miskimin, H. A. (1964). "Economic Depression of the Renaissance?". The Economic History Review. 16 (3): 528. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.1964.tb01747.x.; the criticism by Carlo M. Cipolla, "Economic Depression of the Renaissance?" ibid 16 (1963), pp. 519-24; and the responses of Lopez and Miskimin, pp. 525-29.
- "The Robert S. Lopez Collection", Arizona State University
- Harry A. Miskimin, David Herlihy and A.L. Udovitch (eds). The Medieval City: Studies in Honor of Robert S. Lopez. Yale University Press, 1977.
- Archibald R. Lewis, Jaroslav Pelikan and David Herlihy. "Robert Sabatino Lopez". Speculum 63:3 (1988): 763-65.