Fall 2015 - HIST 402 D100

Renaissance Italy (4)

Class Number: 7178

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 8 – Dec 7, 2015: Wed, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history and one of HIST 220, 223, HUM 219, 305, 311, 312 or permission of the department.



An exploration of the history and historiography of the Renaissance Italy. Emphasis will be given to politics, religion, culture and the economy, and to a balanced study of the Italian peninsula, including Florence, Venice, Rome, Naples, the countryside and smaller urban centres.


Machiavelli, Lorenzo de’ Medici, the revival of classical antiquity and the masterpieces of Michelangelo— these are some of the figures and achievements traditionally associated with the Italian Renaissance. What can they teach us about this defining era in Italy’s history? What else do know about this historical period? And are we justified in labeling it as a “Renaissance,” an age of rebirth and renewal? This course aims to answer these and other questions by exploring in detail both the history and historiography of the Italian Renaissance. For the period c.1300 - c.1550, we will trace the political, social, religious, intellectual and artistic threads of Renaissance society, comparing the variations in cultural fabric up and down the Italian peninsula. Through a rigorous analysis of primary sources, we will discern more clearly how people lived, thought, worked and prayed during this period. Our investigation into scholarship will introduce us to the central questions of this field of study and invite us to engage with Renaissance historians in their most important debates.


Through regular seminar participation and a series of written assignments, students will have the opportunity to strengthen a range of skills essential to the historian’s craft. Particular attention will paid to sharpening skills of critical analysis when analyzing a wide range of historical documents, including works of art and literature, and historical scholarship. Students will also practice important research skills – ones that can be applied well beyond the study of pre-modern history. All assignments are designed to encourage creative as well as analytical approaches to studying, writing and thinking about Renaissance Italy.


  • Seminar participation 20%
  • Seminar discussion questions 10%
  • Short research assignment 15%
  • First essay 25%
  • Second essay 30%



Duccio Balestracci, The Renaissance in the Fields: Family Memoirs of a Fifteenth- Century Tuscan Peasant (1999)

Paula Findlen, ed. The Italian Renaissance: the Essential Readings (2002)

Francesco Guicciardini, Maxims and Reflections (Ricordi) (1972)

Sister Bartolomea Riccoboni, Life and Death in a Venetian Convent: the Chronicle and Necrology of Corpus Domini, 1395-1436 (2000)

These texts will be available for purchase at the SFU bookstore and on reserve at Bennett library. Additional readings will be available on e-reserve at Bennett library.  

Registrar Notes:

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