The following syllabus was scanned from a tea-stained 1993 original. Thus, any mistakes or typos are surely mine and not the original author's!

History 125
James Overfield
Summer 1993


Books Available for Purchase:

De Lamar Jensen, Renaissance Europe, An Age of Recovery and Reconciliation (Heath) ,
Kenneth Bartlett, The Civilization of the Italian Renaissance ; (Heath)
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince (Waveland)

All other readings are on reserve at Bailey-Howe Library

Schedule of Topics and Reading Assignments:

Week I:

July 6: Issues in Renaissance Historiography
July 7: The Economic Foundations of the Renaissance

Jensen, 7-12; 85-103; Charles G. Nauert, Jr., "Medieval Society in Disarray," in The Age of Renaissance and Reformation; Bartlett, 43-53.

July 8: From Communes to City States

Jensen, 12-16, 51-61; Daniel Waley, The Italian City Republics (3rd edition), 59 68, 101-116 ("The Presuppositions of Government," Citizenship," "Patriotism," "Civic Spirit and the Visual Arts."), Bartlett, 67-70, 53-60.

July 9: From City States to Foreign Subjugation

Jensen, 299-316; Lauro Martines, "Invasion: City States in Lightning and Twilight," in Power and Imagination.

Week 2:

July 12: The Renaissance Church and its Problems

Jensen, 29-34; 227-257; Bartlett, 297-315; 329-339.

July 13: Women and Families in the Renaissance

Jensen, 16-17; 103-117; Bartlett, 139-160; 174-181, 195-201, 206-208; Christine Klapisch-Zuber, "Childhood in Tuscany at the Beginning of the Fifteenth Century," in Women, Family, and Ritual in Renaissance Italy.

July 14: Vernacular Literature

Jensen, 23-25, 137-144; selections from Hack, Masterpieces Of World Literature (Dante: 849-862, 902-905, 1022-1026 [Inferno, cantos 1-3; 14; Paradiso, canto 33]; Petrarch: 1186-1191; Boccaccio: 1032-1045 [Decameron, 9th day, 5th tale: 9th day, 8th tale])

July 15: Petrarch and the Origins of Humanism

Jensen, 121-125; Donald J. Wilcox, "Petrarch and the Beginning of the Renaissance," in In Search of God and Self; Selections from Petrarch's letters in Petrarch, Petrarch: A Humanist Among Princes, ed. David Thompson: "To Posterity," "Letter to Cicero," "On Logicians," and "Latin Writers vs. Aristotle."

July 16: The Development of Italian Humanism

Jensen, 125-130; Bartlett, 71-88; 282-289, 292-296.

Week 3:

July 19: Machiavelli and Renaissance Political Thought

Jensen, 144-1 i, 320-323; Machiavelli, The Prince, Introductory Letter, Chs. 1-3, 6-10, 12, 14-19, 21, 24-26

July 20: Renaissance Philosophy and Science

Jensen, 131-137; Bartlett, 117-125, 129-137.

July 21, July 22: Renaissance Painting, Sculpture and Architecture

Jensen, 155-190; Bartlett, 212-239.

July 23: Final Examination

Course requirements:

To make sure you keep on top of the assignments and to give you an opportunity to think and write about a variety of historical issues, you will be required to answer two or three questions on every assignment. Your answers will be handed in and commented on but not graded. At the end of the course all your work will be handed in together and evaluated for a grade. Your grade will be determined on the thoroughness, accuracy, and insight of your answers and my judgement of the thought and effort you have p ut Into your work. These daily assignments will be worth 50% of your final grade. Failure to hand in completed assignments on time is a sure way to damage your grade. If you are unable to complete an assignment because of sickness, out-of-town travel or s ome other unavoidable circumstance, you must speak to me in advance. If something comes up unexpectedly you should call me at home (879-0549) or else call me at the History Department (656-3180). If I am not able to speak with you when you call leave a me ssage. Excuses after the fact are not likely to be accepted.

On the last day of class, there will be a short-answer test based largely Oh the terms listed on the study guides. This will count 10% of your grade.

On Monday, July 26 a final essay is due. It can be handed in at my office in Wheeler House (NW corner of Main and Prospect) or it can be mailed to me.

History Department
Wheeler House
Burlington VT 05405

If mailed, it must have a July 26 postmark to avoid penalty. This essay will be worth 30% of your grade.

The final 10% of your grade will be based on attendance and class participation. Formal lecturing will make up a comparatively small part of our class time. Discussion of reading material and responding to your questions will be our main activities, but not if participation levels are low. To help class discussion and focus your reading, everyone will be required to bring to class a few questions on the day's reading assignment. These will be collected every day. Handing in thoughtful quest ions on each assignment will improve your class participation grade. Failure to do so will have the opposite effect.

Good Luck!


1. Short answer test will be held at 9:30 on Friday, July 23. Plan on twenty to thirty minutes to complete the test. These questions will be based largely, but not exclusively, on the terms included in the assignment sheets.

2. The packet of your daily homework assignments can be handed in on Thursday or at the time of the short answer test. These assignments should all be individually stapled or paper clipped. Each assignment should be numbered handed in order of completion.

3. The final essay is due in my office or your local post office on Monday, July 26. Mailed essays must have a postmark of July 26 to avoid a penalty. Late papers will be accepted until Wednesday, July 28, but will be penalized one letter grade for each d ay late. Essay need not be typed, but as a gauge for length, it should run about 5 to 7 typed pages. If you have more to say, write to your heart's content. I'll read what you've written no matter how long it takes!

You may write on one of the following questions:

1. You have been chosen to deliver a guest lecture in an introductory course on European history on the subject of "Why the Renaissance took place in Italy." What would you include in your talk?

2. Ever since Burckhardt, at least some historians have tended to see the whole Italian Renaissance as a unified whole in which its characteristics, once established in the early 1300s, remained basically the same until the Renaissance ended in the e arly 1500s.

Is such an approach valid? Did Renaissance culture and institutions change significantly during these years? Limit your answer to three of the following areas: political history; economic history; diplomatic history; religious history; intellectual history; art history.

3. How appropriate or accurate is the use of the term "Renaissance" to describe the various features of Italy in the 14th and 15th centuries? What alternative designations might be more accurate? Defend your argument with examples.

This file is part of Hope Greenberg's Graduate Portfolio for the course History 300. Created 14 October 1996.