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Back to the Future: The Story of Renaissance at Warwick

Originally Published 10 June 2003
Professor Ronnie Mulryne
Professor Ronnie Mulryne

by Julian Gardner, incoming Director of the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance

At the beginning of the summer term, Professor Ronnie Mulryne stepped down from the Directorship of the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance. So simple a statement does scant justice either to the history of the Centre or to the achievement of its outgoing Director.

Powerful scholarly interests in the Italian Renaissance had existed from the beginnings of the University, fostered by the charismatic John Hale, founding Professor of History, strongly supported by his fellow founder, Professor George Hunter of English and Comparative Literary Studies. John Hale inspired the Graduate School of Renaissance Studies, the forerunner of the present Centre for the Study of the Renaissance. The current MA in the Culture of the European Reniassance was developed largely through the energies of Ronnie Mulryne.

Michael Mallett, now an Emeritus Professor, and Humfrey Butters have made Warwick a continuing centre of Florentine Renaissance studies through their editorships of the Lorenzo de’ Medici correspondence, and the influence of Venice was also sustained by Dr Martin Lowry who died with tragic suddenness in the autumn of 2002. The History of Art department, founded in 1974, strengthened the scholarly links with Italy. The great addition to these Italian interests was Professor Mulryne’s consuming interest in Renaissance theatre. Professor Mulryne moved the work of the Centre into a new sphere when he gained a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) for his major research project on European festivals, Europa Triumphans.

A profound transformation of the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance came in 2001 with the winning of a second major grant from the AHRB. This grant of approximately £1,500,000, will fund the new Centre for the Study of Élites and Court Cultures for a period of five years. It was gained as a result of a national competition, and of nearly 150 aspirants, the Warwick Centre was one of ten winners. The new Centre was charged with three research initiatives – the completion of Europa Triumphans, a research project on Italian Renaissance élites led by Julian Gardner and the John Nichols project which is intended to produce a critical edition of and commentary on The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth (1823), and The Progresses, Processions and Magnificent Festivities of King James the First (1828) directed by Dr Margaret Shewring.

Professor Julian Gardner
Professor Julian Gardner

Building further on this success, Professor Mulryne also gained an AHRB Resource Enhancement Grant for the digitisation of the British Library’s incomparable collection of Festival Books. This project, once completed, will make widely accessible several hundred further texts to supplement Europa Triumphans volumes.

During the period of Professor Mulryne’s directorship, the University’s research base in the European Renaissance, always strong and varied, has been thoroughly transformed. Ronnie will remain at the University on research leave for a final year before retiring, and will leave behind him an important and challenging legacy.