Terror, Murder and Bloodshed: the Renaissance in Italy and beyond, c. 1400 - c.1550 - HIST6099

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


The 'Renaissance': a time of artistic and cultural productivity; a time, also, of ruthless politics and repeated destruction. The contradictions of the concept are part of its allure - and there is little chance of ignoring it, from cinema references to Machiavelli to the setting of Assassin’s Creed II. What, though, is the historical basis for the construction of the ‘Renaissance’ that has developed since the mid-nineteenth century? And what does that construction tell us about historians’ perceptions of ‘progress’?
This Special Subject allows you to investigate the culture of the Renaissance through engagement with primary sources, textual, visual and material. It begins the Italian peninsula, often considered ‘the cradle’ of innovation in arts, intellectual life and warfare, looking back to the heritage from earlier centuries but with particular focus stretching from the beginning of the fifteenth century — when the papacy was divided and the city-states at each other’s throats — to the aftermath of the Sack of Rome in 1527, when German troops in the pay of the Holy Roman Emperor pillaged the ‘Eternal City’.
We will, however, continually be placing Italian creativity in context, considering its debts to other cultures, both Christian and Muslim, and investigating its interaction with the cultural and commercial life of other parts of Europe, from Spain to the British Isles.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 72
Total private study hours: 528
Total overall hours: 600

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Gobbets Exercise (2,000 words) 10%
Essay 1 (2,500 words) 10%
Essay 2 (2,500 words) 10%
Source Analysis Presentation (10 minutes) 10%
Gobbets Exam (2 hours) 30%
Essay Exam (2 hours) 30%

Reassessment methods:
100% coursework (essay: 50%; gobbets: 50%)

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

M. Belozerskaya, Rethinking the Renaissance: Burgundian arts across Europe (Cambridge, 2002)
P. Burke, The Italian Renaissance: culture and society in Italy, 3rd ed. (Cambridge, 2014)
P. Burke, Hybrid Renaissance: culture, language, architecture (Budapest, 2016)
G. Campbell ed., The Oxford Illustrated History of the Renaissance (Oxford, 2019)
J. Najemy ed., Italy in the Age of the Renaissance, 1300-1550 (Oxford, 2004)
D. Rundle ed., Humanism in Fifteenth-Century Europe (Oxford, 2012)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Engage critically with the historiographical development of the concept of 'the Renaissance
2. Reflect on the interaction between cultural, intellectual, social, economic and political developments
3. Reflect on the interaction of physically separate communities, both within Western Europe and between Europe and non-Western cultures
4. Appreciate the use of textual, visual and material evidence as an historian's primary sources
5. Evaluate historians' arguments on the basis of the primary sources studied

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate an advanced ability to analyse primary texts
2. Demonstrate an advanced ability to analyse visual and material sources
3. Show an evidence-based questioning approach to existing scholarship
4. Deploy the evidence provided by primary sources in the construction of a reasoned argument
5. Express coherent arguments effectively to a variety of audiences and/or using a variety of methods


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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