Skip to main content

Unit information: Culture and Civilisation of the Renaissance (Level C Special Topic) in 2016/17

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Culture and Civilisation of the Renaissance (Level C Special Topic)
Unit code HIST14006
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Austin
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The Renaissance has often been regarded as a key turning point in the history of Europe, heralding the birth of the modern world. Many of the texts which were produced under its influence have come to be regarded as classics, and are still popular today. This Special Topic will seek to develop an appreciation of the culture and civilisation of the Renaissance through reading selections from a number of these texts, by renowned authors such as Petrarch, Vasari, More, Castiglione and Machiavelli. The unit will follow a largely thematic approach, subjecting a different area of endeavour (such as the visual arts, politics, philosophy, religion) to investigation each week. We will also consider the extent to which the different texts require to be considered within the context of their genre, and the extent to which a common mentality and set of attitudes and assumptions may be identified in them.


  • To place students in direct contact with the current research interests of academic tutors and to enable them to explore the issues surrounding the state of research in the field.
  • To introduce students to working with primary sources
  • To introduce students to issues relating to setting primary sources in their wider context
  • To introduce students to the practice of learning independently within a small-group context
  • To introduce students to the intellectual culture of the Renaissance.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit students should have:

  • deepened their understanding of current historical research in the field of Renaissance intellectual culture
  • learned how to work with primary sources
  • developed their skills in contributing to and learning from a small-group environment.

Teaching details

10 x 2 hour seminars.

Assessment Details

1 x 2 hour exam

Reading and References

  • Peter Burke, The Italian Renaissance. Culture and Society in Italy (1986)
  • John M. Najemy, Italy in the Age of the Renaissance (2004)
  • Charles G. Nauert, Humanism and the Culture of Renaissance Europe (1995)
  • John Stephens, The Italian Renaissance. The Origins of Intellectual and Artistic Change before the Reformation (1990)
  • Baldassare Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier [various editions]
  • Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince [various editions]