Renaissance Florence 1350-1550 (HIH1612)

StaffDr Hester Schadee - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

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. On this basis, furthermore, 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. 
The modules’ short writing assignments and self-assessment 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.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Assess the nature of a range of different sources used for the study of Renaissance Florence.
  • 2. Discuss their uses and limitations for answering different historical questions.
  • 3. Identify key themes in the history and historiography of Renaissance Florence.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Articulate, using Florence as example, a number of current issues and approaches in early modern social, cultural, political and intellectual history.
  • 5. Select and evaluate primary sources relevant to various topics, arguments and approaches in early modern history.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Conduct independent study and self-assessment.
  • 7. Work with other students in a team.
  • 8. Present work orally, respond to questions orally, and engage constructively with the work presented by other students.
  • 9. Produce a cogent, well-structured and well-written argument to a very tight word-length and strict deadline.

Syllabus plan

We will begin the module by reading and discussing 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. In the following weeks, we examine sources pertaining to different aspects of Florentine society that confirm, modify or contradict 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 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 activities22 hour lecture: introduction to module
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2010 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 study128Students 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)10-15 minutes1-5, 7-8Oral
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-6, 9Marks and written comments

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
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries602000 words (500 per commentary) (15% per commentary)1-6, 9Mark and written comments.
Essay on Sources401500 words1-6, 9Mark 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
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-6, 9Referral/deferral period
1500 word essay1500 word essay1-6, 9Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - 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

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Florence, Renaissance, Early Modern, Art, Politics,