Ann Moyer

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online May 2010 | | DOI:

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy


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History was one of the main disciplines identified with the humanist movement; Renaissance humanists wrote many works of history and edited, translated, and published the historical works of ancient predecessors. Most of these works remain available only in their original editions. While some of these writers received financial support for their historical writings during their lives, the profession of historian as it is now understood developed much later. How to evaluate the writing of history in the Renaissance was therefore not a simple matter for 20th-century scholars. From the time of Jacob Burckhardt through much of the 20th century, many scholars identified the Renaissance with particular mental attitudes, including especially a sense of historical anachronism often contrasted with medieval mentalities. Erwin Panofsky expressed this approach most famously (see General Overviews). By the later decades of the 20th century, humanistic uses of language and rhetoric began to receive more serious attention, as did the Renaissance use of ancient models in history writing and elsewhere. Accordingly, more scholars became interested in the forms and genres of history writing during the Renaissance. These approaches required close readings of individual historical works; therefore much late-20th- and early-21st-century scholarship has been less general than before and more focused on individual authors, or on regional traditions bounded by politics and language. By the “linguistic turn” of the late 20th century, modern scholars were also less troubled by the rhetorical and political goals and uses of some Renaissance historical writings than their earlier 20th-century colleagues had been; indeed, these goals might themselves become important topics of investigation. Along with historians of art, who became interested in the uses of visual media in constructing political images of states and rulers, historians have begun to examine the ways Renaissance writers used their pasts to give meaning to their present. Another point of collaboration between history and the history of art has been antiquarian scholarship, which has grown rapidly and become a field in its own right. Research has also turned to questions of the use of sources by Renaissance historical writers. Nineteenth-century historians may have claimed that they were the first to take seriously the use of documentary source materials, but it is now clear that Renaissance historians often did so as well. The wealth of new research will surely continue to reshape our understanding of historical thought and writing during the era of the European Renaissance.

Article.  6994 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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