Renaissance Florence 1350-1550

Module titleRenaissance Florence 1350-1550
Module codeHIH1612
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Hester Schadee (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This course introduces themes, sources and approaches in early modern history through a study of the city-state of Florence during the Renaissance. We will consider the art, architecture and literature that made the city famous, and investigate the society that generated these cultural expressions: its economic foundations, social relationships, family and marriage patterns, and political structures, as Florence – spasmodically – transitioned from communal republic to autocracy. Since Florence has often been hailed as ‘the first modern state’, the course raises questions of continuity and change at all levels of society, and invites reflection on the concepts of ‘Renaissance’ and ‘modernity’.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The primary aim of the module is to:

  • Introduce you to the types of sources available to historians of early modern Europe
  • You will work with, and discuss the merits and limitations of, sources as diverse as taxation and marriage records, wills, laws, political speeches, humanist literature, art, architectural plans and buildings
  • You will gain an understanding of interlocking facets of Florentine society, political developments in the city and its territory, and the ground-breaking art and literature that Renaissance Florence produced
  • Prepare you for academic writing and hone your critical reading skills, while a group presentation allows you to practise presenting your work to your peers in a friendly setting

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Assess the nature of a range of different sources used for the study of Renaissance Florence
  • 2. Identify key themes in the history and historiography of Renaissance Florence
  • 3. Articulate, using Florence as example, a number of current issues and approaches in early modern social, cultural, political and intellectual history

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Discuss uses and limitations for answering different historical questions

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Conduct independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussiont
  • 6. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument
  • 7. Work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group
  • 8. Write to a very tight word-length

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Reading and discussion of a number of sources that indicate how the (or rather, some) Florentines viewed themselves and their city from the late fourteenth to the early sixteenth century
  • Examination of sources pertaining to different aspects of Florentine society that confirm, modifying or contradicting these self-presentations, examining topics such as politics, the state, social relationships, marriage and the family
  • Over the course of the module you will read, view and write about sources such as taxation and marriage records, wills, laws, political speeches, humanist literature, art, architectural plans and buildings

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 22 hour lecture: introduction to module
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 2010 x 2 hour seminars. During each seminar a different group of 3-4 students presents on a particular set of sources, which is followed by a class discussion. We then carefully work through the sources set for that week together. Additional sources may be issued in the class. The lecturer will also use the time to introduce issues for the following week
Guided independent study128You prepare for the session through reading and research; write a weekly source essay, and prepare one group presentation in the course of the term


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10 minutes1-7Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Source commentary 133850 words1-3, 5-6, 8Mark and written comments
Source commentary 233850 words1-3, 5-6, 8Mark and written comments
Source commentary 334850 words1-3, 5-6, 8Mark and written comments


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Source commentarySource commentary1-3, 5-6, 8Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Atkinson, N. (2013) 'The Republic of Sound: Listening to Florence at the Threshold of the Renaissance', I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance 16, 1/2, 57-84
  • Connell, W. and A. Zorzi, eds (2004) Florentine Tuscany. Cambridge: Cambridge U Press
  • Connel, W. (2002) Society and Individual in Renaissance Florence. Berkely and Los Angeles: U of California Press
  • Crum, R. and J. Paoletti (2008) Renaissance Florence. A Social History. Cambridge: Cambridge U Press
  • Gamberini, A., and I. Lazzarini, eds (2012) The Italian Renaissance State. Cambridge: Cambridge U Press
  • Goldthwaite, R. (2008) The Economy of Renaissance Florence. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U Press
  • Hankins, J. (1991) 'The Humanist, the Banker and the Condottiere: an unpublished letter of Cosimo and Lorenzo de'Medici written by Leonardo Bruni', Renaissance Society and Culture: Essays in Honor of Eugene F. Rice, Jr., eds. J. Monfasani and R. Musto. New York, 59-70
  • Jurdjevic, M. (1999) 'Civic Humanism and the Rise of the Medici', Renaissance Quarterly 52, 4, 994-1020
  • Kent, F. (2013) Princely citizen: Lorenzo de' Medici and Renaissance Florence. Turnhout: Brepols
  • Klapisch-Zuber, C. (1985) Women, Family and Ritual in Renaissance Italy. Chicago: U of Chicago Press
  • Lee Rubin, P. (2007) Images and Identity in Fifteenth Century Florence. New Haven, CT: Yale U Press
  • Molho, A. (1994) Marriage Alliance in Late Medieval Florence. Cambridge, MA: Harvard U Press
  • Muir, E. and R. Weissman (1989) 'Social and Symbolic Places in Renaissance Venice and Florence', in The Power of Place: Bringing together Geographical and Sociological Imaginations, ed. J. Agnew and J. Duncan. New Haven, CT: Yale U Press
  • Najemy, J. (1991) 'Dialogue of Power in Florentine Politics', in City-States in Classical Antiquity and Medieval Italy, eds A. Molho, K. Raaflaub, and J. Emlen. Ann Arbor, MI, 269-288
  • Partridge, L. (2009) The Art of Renaissance Florence 1400-1600. U of California Press
  • Ruggiero, G. (2014) The Renaissance in Italy. A Social and Cultural History of the Rinascimento. Cambridge: Cambridge U Press
  • Saalman, H. (1996) The Transformation of Buildings and the City in the Renaissance 1300-1550: a Graphic Introduction. New York: Astrion Publishing
  • Trexler, R. (1980, repr. 1991) Public Life in Renaissance Florence, Studies in Social Discontinuity. Academic Press, 1980. Reprinted: Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Florence, Renaissance, Early Modern, Art, Politics

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date