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The Italian Renaissance


Lecture: The Italian Renaissance

Seminar and Essay Questions

  1. Why was there a revival of antiquity in the Italian states between 1250 and 1500?
  2. 'The importance of Florence in the development of the Italian Renaissance has been exaggerated'. Discuss.
  3. Did women experience the Renaissance in the same way as men?
  4. Was the Renaissance limited to elite culture only?


  1. Extract from Pico Della Mirandola, Oration On the Dignity Of Man.
  2. Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527): History of Florence: Lorenzo de' Medici
  3. Leonardo da Vinci writes to offer his services to Ludovico 'il Moro' of Milan, c.1483
  4. Laura Cereta's letters: 'Letter to Bibulus Sempronius, Defense of the liberal instruction of women' (pp.74-80) (optional: 'Letter to Lucilia Vernacula, Against women who disparage learned women', pp.81-83) (in Diana Robin (ed. trans), Collected letters of a Renaissance feminist (University of Chicago Press, 1997)


Leonardo's Vitruvian Man

Leonardo's Bridge for the Sultan

Leonardo Bruni's Panegyric to the City of Florence (c.1403-4)

Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists: Leonardo da Vinci

The Medici. In Our Time. BBC Radio programme (26 December 2013)

Introductory Reading

Barber, The Two Cities, (no readings)

Bartlett, The Making of Europe, (no readings)

Waley, Later Medieval EuropeLink opens in a new window, 153-166, 192-200

Further Reading

Black, Robert (ed.), Renaissance Thought: A Reader (London, 2001) [A collection of key articles and essays]

Brown, Alison, The Renaissance, 2nd ed. (Harlow, 1999)

Burckhardt, Jacob, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, with an introduction by Peter Burke (Harmondsworth, 1990) [Online edition hereLink opens in a new window]

Cassirer, Ernst et al. (eds. and trans.), The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (Chicago, 1948) [An important collection of essays]

Davies, Jonathan, Florence and its University during the Early Renaissance (Leiden, 1998)

Findlen, Paula (ed.), The Italian Renaissance: The Essential Readings (Oxford, 2002) [A collection of key articles and essays]

Galluzzi, Paolo, The Italian Renaissance of Machines (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2020).

Goldthwaite, Richard A., Wealth and the Demand for Art in Italy 1300-1600 (Baltimore and London, 1993)

Hale, J.R., The Civilisation of Europe in the Renaissance (London, 1994)

Hankins, James, 'The Myth of the Platonic Academy of Florence'Link opens in a new window, Renaissance Quarterly 44 (1991), 429-75.

Kristeller, P.O., Renaissance Thought, 2 vols. (New York, 1965) [A collection of key articles and essays]

Martin, John Jeffries (ed.), The Renaissance: Italy and Abroad (London, 2003) [A collection of key articles and essays]

Porter, R., and Teich, M. (eds.), The Renaissance in National Context (Cambridge, 1992)

Vasari, Giorgio, Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, trans. Gaston de Vere, with an introduction by David Ekserdjian, 2 vols. (London, 1996) [Online translation hereLink opens in a new window]

Welch, Evelyn, Art and Society in Italy 1350-1500 (Oxford, 1997)