William J. Connell (historian)

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William J. Connell
William Connell, London, at BBC, 19 Jan 2015.jpg
Connell in London, January 19, 2015
Born July 22, 1958
Residence Clinton, New Jersey, U.S.
Nationality American
Education Ph.D.
Employer Seton Hall University

William J. Connell (William John, "Bill," born July 22, 1958, New York City) is an American historian and holder of the Joseph M. and Geraldine C. La Motta Chair in Italian Studies at Seton Hall University.[1][2] He is a leading specialist in the history of Italy and Early Modern Europe and an authority on Renaissance Florence and Niccolò Machiavelli.

Early Life and Education[edit]

Connell was educated at the Trinity School (New York City), Bronxville High School, and Yale University, where he belonged to Saybrook College and the Manuscript Society and received his B.A. in 1980 summa cum laude. After an internship with U.S. Senator Lowell Weicker and a job as a gardener on the island of Elba,[3] he worked in banking for the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company and then as research assistant for columnist Joseph Alsop before entering graduate school in History at the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his Ph.D. in 1989.


Connell taught history at Reed College in Portland, OR, and at Rutgers University before moving to Seton Hall University in 1998. From 2003 to 2007 he was Founding Director of the Charles and Joan Alberto Italian Studies Institute.[4] He has been a Fulbright Scholar to Italy, an I Tatti Fellow, a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton and a Juror for the Rome Prize of the American Academy in Rome. Since 1992 he has been Secretary of the Journal of the History of Ideas. He is a Corresponding Fellow of the Deputazione di Storia Patria per la Toscana and the Società Pistoiese di Storia Patria, and a member of the Grolier Club of New York City. From 2002 to 2005, and again in 2009-2010, he served on the New Jersey Italian and Italian American Commission as a gubernatorial appointee.[5][6] He was co-chair of the Trustees and chair of the Academic Advisors of the Italian American Heritage Institute at Rutgers University from 2002 to 2005. In 2011 he received the Presidential Award of the Columbian Foundation.[7] His public radio broadcast, "Machiavelli Faces Unemployment," won the Listener Choice Award as the favorite "Academic Minute" of 2011-2012.[8] In 2013 The Irish Voice named him to its Education 100—the top US educators of Irish ancestry. Seton Hall University awarded him its Granato Italian Culture Medal in 2016.


An interest in the territory that surrounded and supported the city of Florence during the Renaissance[9][10] resulted in his book, La città dei crucci: fazioni e clientele in uno stato repubblicano del ʼ400, a study of the social networks underpinning the factionalism of republican Florence and her subject city of Pistoia. His study of the Lombard nobleman Gaspare Pallavicino resulted in a new reading of the narrative framework and the discussion of the female courtier in Baldassarre Castiglione's Book of the Courtier.[11][12] Sacrilege and Redemption in Renaissance Florence (2005; rev. 2d ed. 2008), co-authored with Giles Constable, recounts the case of a man who was hanged for throwing dung at a painting of the Virgin Mary and has been translated into Italian, Russian and Romanian.

Connell’s extensive archival research on the life and career of Niccolò Machiavelli has resulted in a widely praised translation of The Prince (2005, rev. 2d ed. 2016)[13][14][15] and several important essays.[16][17][18] In 2005 Connell made headlines with the startling suggestion that as a boy Machiavelli was molested by a priest,[19] an argument that was substantially confirmed in 2015 when newly discovered documents showed that Machiavelli's teacher was fired from the Florentine cathedral school for pedophilia.[20] In 2013 Connell solved a longstanding philological problem, previously considered a puzzle "awaiting its Rosetta Stone,"[21] by showing that Machiavelli completed The Prince in its final version in the spring of 1515.[22] These essays are collected in his Italian volume Machiavelli nel Rinascimento italiano (2015).

As Director of the Alberto Italian Studies Institute he was Executive Producer of the documentary “Anti-Italianism” (2005; 2d release 2008),[23][24] which featured Joe Piscopo and Tony Lo Bianco. Anti-Italianism: Essays on a Prejudice (2010), co-edited with Fred Gardaphé, is a collection of essays that offers the first sustained historical treatment of anti-Italian prejudice in the United States. A longstanding interest in Italian American history resulted in his editing, with Stanislao Pugliese, The Routledge History of Italian Americans, forthcoming in 2017.

In recent years Connell's research has focused on the Renaissance revolution in historical thought and on connections between northern and southern Europe.[25][26]

Connell has lectured at the Institute for Universal History of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, and the Fondazione Luigi Firpo in Turin. In 2011 he was an accreditation visitor at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He has written on cultural and historical topics for the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, The American Scholar, the Times Literary Supplement, and Clarín (Buenos Aires), in addition to scholarly journals.


Connell is the son of William F. Connell, an artist, of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and Marilyn Moore, an editor and actress, of New York City. He is married to Nikki Shepardson, a historian of Christianity. A first marriage ended in divorce.



  1. ^ Connell, William J. "University Profile". 
  2. ^ Connell, William J. "William Connell on Academia.edu". 
  3. ^ "Giovedi sera Chiostro de Laugier: presentazione letteraria-happening con Bill Connell". Elba Report. June 20, 2007. 
  4. ^ "Charles and Joan Alberto Italian Studies Institute". 
  5. ^ "State of New Jersey - Italian & Italian American Heritage Commission". 
  6. ^ "PolitickerNJ Wire Feed". 
  7. ^ "Columbian Foundation Award Extravaganza". 
  8. ^ "WAMC Northeast Public Radio (July 24, 2012)". 
  9. ^ Connell, William J. (1988). "Il commissario e lo stato territoriale fiorentino". Ricerche storiche. 18 (3): 591–617. 
  10. ^ Connell, William J. (1991). "Clientelismo e stato territoriale: il potere fiorentino a Pistoia nel secolo XV". Società e storia. 14 (53): 523–543. 
  11. ^ Connell, William J. (1999). "Un rito iniziatico nel Libro del Cortegiano di Baldassar Castiglione". Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. Classe di Lettere e Filosofia. 4. 4 (2): 473–497 + plates. 
  12. ^ Connell, William J. (2002). "Gasparo and the Ladies: Coming of Age in Castiglione's Book of the Courtier". Quaderni d'italianistica. 23 (1): 5–23. 
  13. ^ Margo Nash (March 13, 2005). "Machiavelli, Jersey Guy". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ Baldassarri, Stefano U. (2006). "The Taming of the Secretary: Reflections on Some English Translations of Machiavelli's Il Principe". Journal of Italian Translation. 1 (2): 235–252. 
  15. ^ Guccione, Cristina (2009). "A Stylistic Analysis of the English Translations of Machiavelli's The Prince: Mansfield, Skinner and Connell". Storia e politica. 1 (3): 476–504. 
  16. ^ Connell, William J. (2013). "La Lettera di Machiavelli a Vettori del 10 December 1513". Archivio storico italiano. 171: 665–723. 
  17. ^ Connell, William J. (2001). "Machiavelli on Growth as an End". Historians and Ideologues: Studies in Early Modern Intellectual History in Honor of Donald R. Kelley: 259–277. 
  18. ^ Connell, William J. (2000). "The Republican Idea". Renaissance Civic Humanism: Reappraisals and Reflections: 14–29. 
  19. ^ Farkas, Alessandra (11 November 2005). "Machiavelli molestato da piccolo da un prete". Corriere della sera. 
  20. ^ Black, Robert (2015). "Machiavelli and the Grammarians". Archivio storico italiano. 173 (3): 460–461. 
  21. ^ Larivaille, Paul (2009). "In attesa della Stele di Rosetta. Appunti sulla cronistoria di un rompicapo machiavelliano". Filologia e critica. 34: 261–281. 
  22. ^ Connell, William J. (2013). "Dating The Prince: Beginnings and Endings". Review of Politics. 75: 497–514. doi:10.1017/S0034670513000557. 
  23. ^ "Anti-Italianism (short)" (video). 2005. 
  24. ^ "Anti-Italianism (IMDb)" (video). 2005. 
  25. ^ Connell, William J. (2011). "The Eternity of the World and Renaissance Historical Thought". California Italian Studies. 2 (1): 1–23. 
  26. ^ Connell, William J. (2012). "Italian Renaissance Historical Narrative". Oxford History of Historical Writing. 3: 347–363. 

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