THE SOCIAL AND SPATIAL DYNAMICS OF AN URBAN ECOLOGY, WATER AND SANITATION MANAGEMENT IN EARLY MODERN PIACENZA
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This research is about the social/spatial management of water in an urban setting. The water utility of Piacenza, Italy, and specifically, the organization of the now extinct canal system, was investigated for the period between 1545 and 1736. Through analysis of the administration of the canal system and the water utility this thesis constructs an aspect of the political ecology of Piacenza. Political ecology as a discipline lies at the intersection of the environmental context, land use, spatial design, demographics and social relationships. The study looked at how the city organized itself to manage urban water and sanitation delivery, the methods used to communicate with the users, the actions taken to keep the system in good repair, the responses to crises, and the limitations of the social organization and technological capabilities. The archival documents contained within the Congregazione sopra l’ornato (CSO), the municipal committee charged with management of the canals, form the core of the research. Analysis revealed a finely-tuned social system that involved noble oversight, the use of expert engineers, public/private partnerships for maintenance of the canals with millers and consorti as key people, and an attempt to control cheating with fines and penalties.