Let’s talk about you: what is your background, what do you teach, and what are your research interests?.
My name is Giovanni Favero and I teach economic history and business history at Ca' Foscari. My current research revolves around two main topics. The first is a reflection on the specific nature of what historians do and on their possible contribution to research in management, as well as on the way in which firms and organisations approach the past. The second topic is long-term historical quantification processes, from accounting fraud mechanisms studied in different contexts to the impact of economic forecasts on business decisions and the use of data to develop urban tourism policies.
Tell us about your academic path.
I studied history at Ca' Foscari, graduating with Giovanni Levi, one of the founders of microhistory. After my PhD in urban and rural history in Perugia, where I worked with Tommaso Detti and Carlo Pazzagli in a highly interdisciplinary environment, I returned to Venice for a research grant and was lucky enough to soon win a competition for a researcher position in economic history in the economics department, where I learned a lot. In 2011, with Paola Lanaro, we moved to the new department of management. Here I found opportunities for new inspiration and all-round collaboration with colleagues from different disciplinary fields, which led me to develop my research with innovative directions and new institutional challenges.
What has given you the greatest satisfaction in your career?
Going back in time, my first real professional satisfaction was publishing an article on the population of Venice in the modern age with four other students before we even graduated. It was then that I experienced the pleasure, effort and fear of seeing your research published. There have been others since then, the most recent perhaps being invited to present the first English translation of Benedetto Cotrugli's fifteenth-century trade manual at Harvard Business School, where I was then able to return for long-term research. But it is also the little things that give this job meaning, such as a student thanking me for citing his dissertation in a book or an unexpected compliment from a colleague.
What are you most passionate about in your research?
History made in archives and libraries is a journey into the past. Once the questions are defined, historians turn into detectives who use every means and tool to connect the most disparate sources into a story that holds. What involves me most is this element of interpretative reconstruction of what happened, the idea of looking back and reassembling piece by piece events that often not even those who lived them were fully aware of.
What do teaching and researching mean to you?
Working in a university means that you can constantly interact with young people who dedicate their time to learning new things. I have always been convinced that what is actually taught is, in the end, very little, and that students learn much more by talking to their classmates and by combining what they read with the input that teachers give them. Making the classroom a place where ideas come from is difficult but exciting work. After all, only if you have experienced the happiness of research can you pass it on. I remember my dissertation supervisor handing me a book, the nineteenth-century edition of one of the texts I used for my dissertation, full of notes, and asking me to find out who owned it. Being able to find out by linking what was underlined to quotations found elsewhere was one of the experiences that most motivated me to do this job.