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Emeritus Reader Dr Humfrey Butters

Contact Information:


Academic Profile

Born: 15 December 1946


  • 1960-65 Winchester College (Exhibitioner)
  • 1965-8 New College, Oxford (Winchester Scholar)
  • 1968 BA History (2nd Class Hons.)
  • 1968 Commenced work on D. Phil. thesis: `Florentine Politics 1502-19'
  • 1975 MA and D.Phil. Oxford


  • 1971-2 Fellow of Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Villa I Tatti, Florence
  • 1979-80 Fellow of Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies,
  • Villa I Tatti, Florence
  • 1997 Fellow of Royal Historical Society

Teaching posts:

  • 1973 Lecturer for Lake Forest College (USA), Spring Programme in Florence
  • 1973-2002 Lecturer in History, University of Warwick
  • 2002-4, Senior Lecturer in History, University of Warwick
  • 2004- Reader in History, Univeristy of Warwick
Undergraduate Modules Taught
Postgraduate Modules Taught
  • Contribution to the MA in Culture of the European Renaissance
Selected Publications
  • Governors and Government in early sixteenth-century Florence, 1502-19 (Oxford, 1985)
  • `Good government and the limitations of power in the writings of Niccolo Machiavelli', History of Political Thought, 7 (1986), pp. 411-17
  • `Politics and Diplomacy in late Quattrocento Italy: the case of the Barons' War', in Florence and Italy, Renaissance Studies in Honour of Nicolai Rubinstein, eds. P. Denley and C. Elam (London 1988), pp. 13-31
  • `Lorenzo and Machiavelli', in Lorenzo the Magnificent Culture and Politics, eds. M. Mallett and N. Mann (London, 1996), pp. 275-80
  • Lorenzo de' Medici, Lettere, VIII (1484-5) (edition with historical commentary), (Florence, 2001)
  • Lorenzo de' Medici, Lettere, IX (1485-6), (edition with historical commentary) (forthcoming Florence, 2002)

The Italian city states were strikingly unusual features of the social landscape of medieval Europe, distinguished by the sophistication of their economic activities, by the forms of government they adopted, by the richness of their cultural life and by their singular social structure. In the course of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries most of these city states ceased to be republics and became subject to the rule of one man (signore), but some of them retained their republican constitution, and Florence was one of these. Since 1968 I have been studying the political history of that city in its last fifty years as a republic (1480-1530), including both the periods in which the city, while continuing to be formally a republic, was dominated by the Medici family, and those in which it enjoyed a more genuinely republican political life. The greatest political thinker to address the problems of the Italian city states was Niccolo Machiavelli, who lived through the last phase of Florentine republicanism, and on whose writings I have written several articles. Another great Florentine in this period was Lorenzo de' Medici (The Magnificent- d. 1492), and since 1979 I have been a member of an international group of scholars which has the task of producing a complete edition with historical commentary of his correspondence. I have now embarked upon the study of a different, but related, subject: public law and the state in Italy, 1100-1300. In this period the Italian communes emerged and developed, and German imperial government in Italy ceased to be, in most respects, a reality, and became largely an aspiration.

Recent Research Topics Supervised (PhD, MA)
  • Ph.D. candidate Maurizio Arfaioli: `The Road to Naples. Florence, the Black Bands and the army of the League of Cognac, 1526-1528'.
  • Ph.D. candidate Fabrizio Ricciardelli: `Exile in Florence from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance'.

Humfrey Butters