History 365 (101) Europe during the Renaissance




Course Level



This course will explore European society and culture from the fifteenth to the early seventeenth century, an exciting and turbulent time often referred to as the ‘Renaissance.’ The term means ‘rebirth’ and immediately brings to mind bursts of creativity and advances in knowledge, influenced by the recovery of ancient culture and wisdom, religious reform and the European discovery and colonisation of the ‘New World.’ Throughout the semester, we will examine new models and innovations in literature, education, the arts, and sciences, within the contexts of social, economic and political transformations, as well as in relation to the beginnings of European overseas empires. We will study the works and worlds of famous princes, philosophers, artists and explorers, and examine the lives of ordinary individuals and marginalised groups, such as the working-poor, the sick, prostitutes, pirates, slaves, Jews, Muslims, heretics and witches, and displaced and decimated indigenous populations. In this course, we will see that the Renaissance was a dynamic and fascinating time but that it was also one of great contradictions: endlessly beautiful art and inspiring philosophy stand side by side with terrible struggles and atrocities. While we learn about the societies and cultures of Europe during these centuries, we will also critically reflect on the use of the term ‘Renaissance’ to give this period of time meaning: how does the term shape our assumptions of European history in this period? Also, how has that history been used and represented in our own popular culture?