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European History


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



A Companion to the Worlds of the Renaissance edited by Guido Ruggiero (Blackwell Companions to History: Blackwell) The idea of the renaissance as a period of European cultural triumph in which great men flourished has been largely demolished in the last fifty years. This provocative volume brings together some of the most exciting scholars who led this attack, to suggest different ways of thinking about the renaissance and set new agendas for research.

The contributions focus on three major themes: transformative encounters between cultures, ancient and new, high and low, within Europe and beyond; fascination with all things Italian; and social realignment. In examining these themes, the contributors look at the renaissance from a world perspective, illuminating the negative as well as the positive, and integrating considerations of gender, sex, violence, and non‑elite culture. The vision of the renaissance that emerges is one defined by a wide range of social, political, economic, and cultural developments rather than by the actions of a small cultural Elite.

Editor summary: The essays of this volume have not tried to cover every aspect of the Renaissance. Rather, the goal was to rethink the Renaissance along the lines of the broad themes outlined above, combining recent scholarship with the strengths of the more trad­itional, and offering new agendas for thinking critically about the period. In the first section of the volume the essays focus on the course of events in various parts of the world at the time, with a special attention to how they might fit into a Renaissance paradigm. Readers will quickly see that these essays have not been forced into the vision of the Renaissance outlined above; rather that vision served as merely a point of departure from which each essay develops its own perspective and agenda. The first essay, by Gene Brucker, reflects well the social and cultural vision of the Italian Renaissance that has been one of dominant ways of looking at the period from the 1960s on, and which Brucker himself in many ways pioneered and established as he trained a generation of students at Berkeley . Research in the rich archives of Italy to deepen and enrich the understanding of the political, social, and economic workings of the Italian Renaissance has been the key to his work and to that of a host of other scholars who earned this approach a central position in post‑war Renaissance scholar­ship. In fact, much of this work was so tightly focused on archival data and a close analysis of local events or social conditions that questions of periodization were largely ignored. In this essay, however, Brucker takes a broader look at the way the political and social interacted with, and in many ways structured, the cultural, and advances a powerful overview of how the Renaissance worked as a period in Italy. In the process he also provides some rationale for the often lamented Florentine focus of much of this scholarship.

Randolph Starn's essay on the European Renaissance reflects a newer vision of the period, based on many of the ideas central to the new cultural history. It is not surprising that he does so, since he, as one of the leaders of the group who founded the cutting edge journal Representations, has played a significant role in formulating that approach. Significantly, however, in this essay Starn blends traditional scholarship with a deeper rethinking, and places change ahead of structure in his historical analysis; thus genealogies (echoing Foucault) and process are the key to his analysis of the Renaissance. In a way the Renaissance is for Starn a constant process of a society and culture discovering and creating itself in space and time. Thus, tellingly, it was less the "New World" that had to be discovered in Starn's vision ‑ it was already known by its inhabitants ‑ but rather it was Europe that had to be created and the genealogy of this creation traced here was one of the most crucial aspects of the Renaissance forced upon Europe by its encounters with a larger world. Following the pioneering work of Stephen Greenblatt, Starn also treats the genealogy of the individual, nicely problematizing this concept in the process and providing a provocative new twist on the idea of Renaissance self‑fashioning. In the end, as one might expect given his emphasis on cultural dynamics over cultural structures, the Renaissance becomes a series of open‑ended sets of practices that in many ways set out the main themes of this book.

The next three essays in the volume follow in the footsteps of Starn's interest in how other worlds were constructed and encountered in the Renaissance and, as in his essay, they provide some stimulating ways of reconsidering what was occurring not only in those other places but in Europe as well. Linda Darling, whose work on the Middle East contributed to a renaissance of interest in the area in our period, breaks down the traditional Eurocentrism of the idea of Renaissance. Working mainly from a cultural perspective she argues persuasively that the term can be usefully applied to developments in the Middle East and beyond and to the relationships between the Middle East and Mediterranean and European cultures, societies, and economies. Refreshingly and challengingly she also presents a Renaissance economic world centered in the Middle East with Europe as merely another trading partner and peripheral competitor. Matthew Restall offers an even more forceful essay, which calls into question the Eurocentrism of the traditional visions of the Renaissance. Noted for his path‑breaking studies of the languages and documents written in Mesoamer­ican languages, especially Nahuatl, Restall in this essay looks closely at two areas especially associated with the Renaissance in Europe ‑ urban planning and literary ‑and argues that in both areas the New World in many ways led the Old. Perhaps most striking is his claim that the most innovative urban designs in Renaissance Europe were actually modeled on New World urban models. Whether or not one is willing to go all the way with Restall and accept that "it was in Spanish America, therefore, that the `real' renaissance was created" his essay suggests that the relationship between "other" worlds and Europe needs to be rethought as much more reciprocal and interdependent than has been the case, a theme that runs through all these essays.

Peter Burke's essay nicely weaves these themes into an innovative look at the way geography shaped Renaissance society and culture, without falling into geographical determinism. Noted for his evocative`essays on the Renaissance that have repeatedly provoked new ways of thinking about the period and new issues to investigate, Burke looks at how the Renaissance was diffused over space and time. The themes of both encounters and imitation come out strongly here as he examines how culture, people, and things move and are literally translated from place to place in the period. Perhaps influenced by literary theory as well as geography, he argues that when thinking about these movements of the Renaissance we need to shift our focus from diffusion to reception and from adoption to adaptation, much as Starn, Darling, and Restall do in their essays. Tellingly, Burke also suggests, echoing Starn, that rather than looking at humanism, the traditional cultural centerpiece of Renaissance scholarship, as a system of ideas about philology, the dignity of man, and ancient learning, we should look at it as a set of cultural practices more concerned with the collecting of coins, writing letters in classical Latin, and teaching Latin grammar ‑ an interpretation that will return later in the essay of Ingrid Rowland.

The second part of the volume examines some of the more significant worlds and ways of power in the Renaissance. Looking quickly at the list of topics covered it should be clear that this section follows the lead of contemporary scholars who are breaking new ground by suggesting that significant technologies and strategies of power can be found throughout society and culture. And that is particularly true in the Renaissance, where governments and other traditional centers of authority were merely competitors in a much broader spectrum of power and often far from the most significant competitors. Modern scholarship has been seriously distorted by what might be called a modernist fantasy of the state as the source and center of all power, but as that ideological premise of the modern state is deconstructed and scholars move out to examine the much more complex world of power in particular societies and cultures, exciting new perspectives are being opened on the past. This excitement has played an important role in revitalizing and reinvigorating even the study of government itself, as the first essay in this section by Edward Muir nicely demon­strates. Muir, known for his cultural studies of the organization of society through ritual activities and the breakdown of society in the face of violence, combines in this essay an excellent overview of the more traditional vision of government and the state with a newer cultural approach, in the process suggesting a host of interesting directions for new research. Contrasting the abstract theories of the state with the messy Renaissance realities of governance he quickly moves on to consider crucial questions about governments' actual ability to rule; the relationship between ritual and symbolisms of rule and ruling; the problematics of Renaissance states as unified spaces; the centrality of justice and order in formation of Renaissance states; the impact of court and patronage on states; and finally the symbolism of state. Using the Hapsburgs as an example, Muir shows how that great dysfunctional trilogy of the modern state ‑ bureaucracy, taxes, and war ‑ were already well in place in the Renaissance, undermining early attempts at state formation.

James Farr's essay follows Muir's lead, moving on from what might be seen as one of the most significant manifestations of Renaissance government's power, the law, to consider power dynamics that might be seen as largely escaping the authority of government, such as custom and honor. True to his complex studies of artisan honor and the relationship between law, honor, and sex in Renaissance France, Farr does not fall into such simple dichotomies. Rather, he sees law, custom, and honor as complex interrelated disciplining dynamics that articulated fields of power and control, deeply affecting Renaissance life. Farr also rejects as too teleological the traditional vision that sees written law triumphing over custom in the Renaissance and argues that honor is the missing link between the two and the key to understanding Renaissance discipline. "Everywhere in Renaissance Europe," he points out, "honor was a well-established, customary, and traditional regulatory process that had dally purchase on the people within it. It pervaded the very souls of men and women and regulated their everyday actions." In some ways Gregory Hanlon's essay on violence moves power back under the control of government. He outlines the strategies that he sees as central in Italian Renaissance governments' great long‑term project of reducing the level of violence in society ‑ the project that dominated the late Renaissance and state formation. True to the behaviorist vision developed in his important works on crime and violence in the Renaissance, however, Hanlon sees biology as ultimately more significant than government. He argues that for all the developments in governmen­tal attempts to control violence, "magistrates were still confronted with Original Sin; that is, while rates of violence declined in ways we can measure, people (men, by far) continued to maim and murder their neighbors for reasons that appear to be univer­sal and constitutive of human nature." While few other essays in this volume share this biological determinism it does suggest yet another way of seeing power in the Renaissance.

Robert Muchembled's essay, following the ground‑breaking work of Norbert Elias, takes us to another fascinating and significant trinity of the time: courts, manners, and civility. Most noted perhaps for his own innovative volumes on Renais­sance popular culture and the attacks on that culture at the end of the Renaissance, Muchembled introduces English‑speaking readers to his new research on Renais­sance courts and courtly ways. He goes beyond Elias to see courts and manners at their most significant as "cultural laboratories," where men learned to internalize discipline and order society via self‑control: lessons that would slowly be incorporated ‑ not in a linear fashion but in an ongoing give and take ‑ into society and culture as the Renaissance ended and a modern era began. But even in Renaissance courts such changes were stoutly resisted by older codes of behavior that stressed male violence and a certain direct animality in a tight competitive space, where the will of the prince could literally be the law. Thus in Muchembled's nuanced vision such changes were hardly a triumphal march or a simple evolutionary civilizing process, but a complex set of negotiations that depended on courts, aristocracies, and manners.

Joanne Ferraro in her essay takes the discussion of Renaissance power to the locus where a person of the period would have turned first: to the family. According to the Renaissance ideal the family was the building block and primary sustainer of order and discipline. Ferraro, who has studied the family both in its political dimensions and from the perspective of marriage and the relationships between husbands and wives in ground‑breaking studies based on archival material, here looks at the family both in its macro political and social dimensions and in its micro relationships of passions, loves, and conflict. The result is a thought‑provoking essay that covers the traditional issues of family history, but also moves beyond them to suggest that we look more closely at the microdynamics of family relationships and their implications for Renaissance life, especially for women. Elissa Weaver follows in this vein, looking more closely at the way in which the cultural and social construction of gender differences disciplined and ordered Renaissance life. While Ferraro investigated the family using archival documents enriched by literature, Weaver looks at gender issues relying primarily upon Renaissance literature, backing this up with archival research. And as one might expect, given her path‑breaking research into previously unknown works by Renaissance women, especially nuns, Weaver has an original perspective on the range of powers available to women. This places her squarely in the revisionist camp that sees women as having had a Renaissance in literature and life, albeit a modest one. But most notably these two essays are outstanding examples of how the newer research interests of the last generation have enriched our understanding of the complexity and range of discipline, order, and power in the Renaissance. The story can no longer be told in terms of high ideas and high politics carried out by a handful of men; such a story simply does not do justice to the richness of the Renaissance. More importantly, when looked at from the point of view of family and gender, whole new Renaissance worlds become visible.

In the last essay of this part John Martin tackles the controversial topic of identity and selfhood in the Renaissance. Some have argued that there was little sense of self or identity in the Renaissance, such concepts being in many ways what make modern individuals radically different from their premodern predecessors, who tended to see themselves as moments in a family tradition or part of much more significant corporate or spiritual groups. The idea that identity is a facet of modernity has generated much controversy (and interesting scholarship) and stands at the heart of the thesis advanced by Norbert Elias, and to a lesser extent by Muchembled in this volume, about how the beginning of the modern is predicated upon a change in the human psyche ‑ a change that turns on the internalization of comportment and manners and a developing sense of an internalized self. Where the contest for power is fought out in a society and culture also depends on how the self that seeks power is located in society and conceived; thus in a way Martin's essay poses the ultimate question for power. With his studies on Renaissance heresy and popular religious beliefs, and a number of important essays on aspects of selfhood such as sincerity and honor, Martin brings to this essay experience both of a close reading of inquisitional materials from the archives and a wide‑ranging reading in the more traditional intellectual history of the period. Crucially, in this essay, he makes a much needed qualification of the issues involved, pointing out that while one should not expect to find modern concepts of selfhood and individualism in other cultures and times, culturally specific senses of self are to be found in most societies and cultures. For the Renaissance, then, he sees three types of selfhood as being operative: a civic selfhood that builds out from the family to include local perceptions of community; a performative sense of self which was largely a product of the sixteenth century and tied to evolving courtly ideals and traditional concepts of honor; and a sense of a inner self less in the modern sense of inner and more in the context of an inner opening to the spiritual world. Apparently radical, in many ways this is a subtle rereading of much of the traditional critique of ideas of modern selfhood. It shows from a Renaissance perspective how a Renaissance sense of self contributed to the way in which individuals constructed themselves, suggesting new ways of thinking about the relationship between self and power in the period.

The third part of the volume looks at the social and economic worlds of the Renaissance. As noted above, the Renaissance was a time of crucial social realignments, often underestimated because at the end of the period things in Europe seemed to look much as they had at the beginning, with society seemingly based upon an enduring three estates model: a clergy that prayed, a hereditary nobility that fought and largely dominated local society, and all the rest below. But, as pointed out above, this apparent continuity masked the presence of dynamic change and conflict across the social hierarchy. Matthew Vester, in his essay on the upper classes in the Renaissance, nicely brings out this complexity. Vester has worked on the nobility in Savoy and Piedmont , a kind of crossroads area in the late Renaissance, where Italian and French visions of nobility and the upper classes intersected and at times conflicted with interesting results. As a result his essay deals with the problematic relationship between new urban elites and older military aristocracies and the gradual building of a European aristocracy that would become the "old regime." Most notably, perhaps, he recasts the traditional theme of conflict between the growing nation‑state and the local nobility and suggests that an emphasis on the rise of the territorial state with its teleological focus on modern political forms of centralization seriously misconstrues the complexity of the history of the upper classes in this period. He suggests persuasively that instead the nobility of the period should be seen much more as a European‑wide collection of major families who lived in and dominated areas that did not fall neatly within state boundaries, and that the real conflicts of the age were much more about noble jurisdictions of a transregional type. As a result, this essay not only rethinks the way the upper classes were reformed in the Renaissance, it suggests some interesting ways to rethink the nature of power and government in the period.

James Amelang takes on the other side of the great Renaissance social divide in his essay on those below the upper classes. The seeming immobility and lack of distinction in the lower classes becomes in Amelang's accomplished hands a much more complex and rapidly changing phenomenon. Having worked on the world of artisans in Renaissance Spain and the development of the genre of autobiographical writing among the lower classes and especially artisans in the Renaissance, Amelang brings a wide‑ranging familiarity with the lower classes to his essay. Thus he deals with traditional crucial themes like the conversion of the poor and the peasantry from integral parts of society to "outsiders" (at least for the category of poor defined as undeserving) and vile untrustworthy villains. This, along with the upsurge in vagrancy or people without a fixed place in society, radically changed the nature of life at the bottom of society and played a significant role in some of the darker aspects of the Renaissance that set it apart as a period. But when he turns to the social and cultural world of artisans Amelang is at his most original and suggestive and we get a fascinating look at a vibrant world that contributed much more to the Renaissance than has been traditionally recognized.

This theme returns from an economic perspective in Karl Appuhn's essay on the economic worlds of the Renaissance. Appuhn has worked on the economy of Renaissance Venice, especially on state control of the vital resources necessary for its shipbuilding industry, and the delicate balance between protecting natural resources and satisfying economic demands for raw materials to sustain economic growth. He brings a fresh perspective both to the changes in the agricultural sphere, which were crucial for sustaining the urban nature of Renaissance society, and to the economic strategies of urban society. Perhaps most notably he stresses new techniques and ways of organizing agriculture, trade, and urban production without falling into a simple technological determinism. He even brings a cultural dimension to economic history by arguing that quantification and more disciplined ways of organizing the economy and keeping records were crucial innovations, not just for the economic success of the period, but for the very nature of the period itself. John Marino's essay takes the economic innovations of the Renaissance onto a world stage. Most noted for his impressively detailed archival studies of the economy of southern Italy , Marino here demonstrates a much broader and even more creative synthetic vision that allows him to situate the voyages of discovery and the drive to open and dominate new markets around the world. Again, traditional themes like the shift from a Mediterranean focus of production and commerce to first a north Atlantic and then a world focus are nicely laid out. Then he traces how Italian and Iberian models and experience were translated and transformed gradually into the first global system of exchange, especially in regard to the powerful new drug-like stimulants of sugar and tobacco.

The next part of the volume examines the cultural worlds of the Renaissance, perhaps the area most associated with traditional ways of seeing the period. The range of subjects treated in this section and the adventurous approaches of the essayists who have contributed will further encourage the recent important trend of seeing Renaissance culture from a broad perspective. Right from the beginning of this part, with David Gentilcore's essay rethinking the concept of popular culture in the Renaissance, there is a fruitful move beyond the traditional emphasis on high culture. Gentilcore's recent publications on the magical and religious worlds of southern Italy in the period provide an interesting point of departure for an essay that attempts to rethink one of the most difficult issues in new cultural studies: the way the apparently varying cultures of different groups of people in society operate within a more general shared culture. For Gentilcore the answer lies in the concept of subcultures, the special cultures of groups within society who have their own customs, techniques, traditions, ways of speaking, etc., but still participate in the more general culture. So he considers subcultures defined by work, by rural life, by gender, by social distinctions, by living at the margins of licit society and does so without having to fall back on the older and perhaps oversimplistic vision of a sharp divide between high and low, popular and elite, or vernacular and Latin culture. This allows him to provide a nuanced picture of a central theme of the innovative and important work by scholars such as Peter Burke and Robert Muchembled in this area (the progressive attack on popular culture that marks so profoundly the end of the Renaissance), which he sees in terms of a much more complex series of intrusions of the dominant culture on specific subcultures.

Ingrid Rowland, in the second essay of this part, tackles the more traditional topic of high culture with a focus on humanism and how it formed and informed the intellectual life of the period. But true to her original work on humanism, she uses her classical training and new cultural perspectives to provide a new reading of humanism's significance without losing the richness of the great scholarly work that has been done in this area. Perhaps what makes this essay so interesting is the way in which Rowland sees Renaissance high culture as a set of practices and approaches that extended well beyond humanism, and rather than worshipping the great thoughts of great men she attempts to examine how such practices actually fit into the life of the Renaissance, again without losing sight of what was impressive, suggestive, and beautiful. The essay by R. Po-chia Hsia follows a path similar to the first two essays by examining how religion was lived in the Renaissance, examining it as a set of practices rather than merely as a set of ideas dominated by the elite of the Church. Hsia, noted for his micro and macro studies of religious experience and enthusiasm in the period, stresses in this essay a crucial point: that the boundaries between the spiritual world and the profane world were overwhelmed in the Renaissance by waves of popular piety and by a breakdown in the ideal of the clerical control of the spiritual -- a breakdown that gave religious enthusiasm an explosive potential and a central place in the everyday life. Looking closely at four broad issues: the difference between spiritual styles in the Mediterranean and in northern Europe ; conflicting visions of reform; the expression and repression of feminine spirituality; and the multiple eruptions of the divine in everyday life, he develops a thought-provoking and innovative vision of religious enthusiasm and conflict in an age that was anything but the secular.

Loren Partridge, in the fourth essay in this part, takes on the immense task of dealing with Renaissance art and to meet the challenge provides a more methodological perspective. Given the significant work he has done in the field his essay gains additional interest from the autobiographical approach he takes in discussing the ways in which Renaissance art historians have changed their ways of thinking about and seeing Renaissance art. Focusing on Italy , he lays out the parameters of the field and assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the various methods he sees as most significant. Partridge argues that the field has moved away from traditional interests in connoisseurship, style, and iconography towards a more contextual analysis, focusing on a range of social, economic, and cultural issues. Among these are: the function of art, the impact of patronage, the reception of artistic works, the social status of artists, the psychoanalytical analysis of art, the technical aspects of artistic production, and the relationship between gender, sex, and art. James Grantham Turner, in a playful essay on literature, stresses the playfulness of Renaissance literature itself-- almost as if his essay in its form and aesthetics is designed to mirror to the reader the nature of Renaissance literature. Following on from his important publications on English Renaissance literature and the impact of sex, gender, and aesthetics on the literature of the period, this essay puts the perhaps most difficult question that one might pose: What will we define as Renaissance literature? After considering an evocative range of possibilities he suggests, "the typical Renaissance text is `jocoserious,' cunningly poised between jest and earnest." One could say the same thing about this essay and in that tension between jest and earnest there are many suggestions for further research and many innovative ideas about Renaissance literature.

John Najemy's essay on Renaissance political thought is a compelling rethinking of the way ideas about government, ruling, and the state developed in the period. After his publications on the social and political life of Renaissance Florence based on massive archival work, and his newer publications on the thought of Machiavelli based on an especially sensitive reading of that difficult thinker, it will come as no surprise that this essay stresses the reciprocal relationship between political theory and political practice in the Renaissance. Building out from Italy and the republican and princely political ideologies that developed there, Najemy provides a powerful synthesis. It is noteworthy also, given the complaints of many (including myself) about the overemphasis on the centrality of Florence in Renaissance studies, that Najemy gives Florence a central place in his discussion and defends that placement impressively. But more importantly, in describing the development of the modern view of the state and political power, he provides numerous suggestions for rethinking this process and for re-examining the leading Renaissance figures who wrote on the subject. In the last essay of this part William Eamon tackles the immense topic of Renaissance science and medicine. He is noted for his magisterial study of Renaissance books of secrets and his many seminal articles on the impact of popular culture and anti‑establishment thinkers on the development of science. Again, this essay is not an account of the triumph of great thinkers in the march towards modern science, but a much more complex tale of the conflicts and negotiations between different visions of the cosmos, nature, and medicine in the period, and the development of newer methodologies for trying to understand and manipulate them. Here culture, science, society are rethought from the bottom up. As with all the essays in this part the result is to reconfigure old heroes and the Renaissance itself, offering a series of new issues for consideration.

The last part of the book focuses on a theme that many of the earlier essays have already addressed in trying to break away from the overly triumphant traditional view of the period -- the darker sides of the Renaissance. Actually the title is slightly misleading, because the concept "anti-worlds" articulates the attitude of the dominant culture of the Renaissance to places and peoples who were considered "other"; for many at the time, however, that view was highly problematic, especially those who lived in those other worlds. In theory these were separate worlds, but in fact in many ways these anti-worlds were deeply integrated into Renaissance society and culture, for better and for worse. The essay by Mary Lindemann that begins this part examines perhaps the most famous negatives of the Renaissance: the regular recurrence of the plague, the pervasiveness of disease in general, and the ubiquity of hunger. As a noted social historian of medicine who has written both in-depth archival studies of doctors, health policy, and poverty in Germany and an overview of medicine and health practice in early modern Europe, Lindemann deals both with the traditional issues surrounding the prevalence of disease and hunger and with the way in which these concepts were culturally constructed in the Renaissance. So, for example, she thoughtfully reviews the literature about what disease the plague actually was, even as she warns that attempting to identify it may well be a futile task given how rapidly bacilli (and viruses for that matter) can mutate over time. She then proceeds to ask more cultural questions about how the plague infected the imagination of people across the period. For Lindemann, hunger, disease, and plague had significant, direct material impacts on Renaissance life, in the classic modes of the history of medicine and social history, but they also were crucial cultural constructs. The way those constructs worked and fitted into Renaissance life were equally important, and they open up vast new vistas for study. Linda Woodbridge in turn, in her essay on Renaissance bogeymen and monsters, applies a similar cultural approach to the way people were defined as others and outside of society in this period. A noted expert on Shakespeare, Woodbridge has written on the way literature represents the poor and marginal figures of the Renaissance world, and has been innovative in her use of literature to study social practice and beliefs; this essay is a good example of her interdisciplinary approach. Here the underworld of the Renaissance comes to life and one gets another perspective on a process noted earlier in the essays on the social world of the Renaissance: the way in which the hierarchal structures of Renaissance society were as much constructed by exclusion as inclusion. The undeserving poor; the marginal at the bottom of society; the unreliable peasants of the countryside; the sexually perverse; "outsiders" such as Jews, thieves, conmen, charlatans, sodomites; even those who challenged gender norms -- overly aggressive women and feminine men-- all reappear here as various forms of monsters and bogeymen. And as monsters and bogeyman not only were they repressed formally; informally they were defined away, leaving the Renaissance safe in its dreams of itself.

Thomas Arnold, in his essay on war and violence, continues the consideration of areas of Renaissance life that in many ways were debarred from the ideals of the Renaissance, yet were deeply integrated into that life. Here, as in his important work on the history of Renaissance warfare, Arnold mixes traditional issues of military history with a deep cultural consideration of what warfare and violence meant to Renaissance society at both upper-class levels and more humble ones. Echoing the insights of Robert Muchembled's earlier essay about the predilection of the European nobility for aggression, Arnold stresses the way violent codes of behavior like the hunt not only prepared that nobility for violence but made it a central way of life, one that it is difficult for us to fully comprehend today. As he concludes, "For many noble participants, warfare was not something to be fought and won to allow a return to civilian life; rather warfare was life itself, formal campaigning providing just another murderous arena for the display of pride, courage, and skill at arms." And in fact the consideration of how violence was culturally constructed across the social spectrum and integrated deeply into Renaissance life offers a strikingly new perspective on the period. At the same time it supports Arnold 's call for new forms of Renaissance military history that will return it to its deserved central place in our understanding of the period.

My essay on witchcraft and magic in the Renaissance attempts to stimulate rethinking on the subject by turning traditional approaches to the subject on their head reversals of the established order being a noble Renaissance tradition. I have tried in this essay to take seriously the way witchcraft and magic were practiced in everyday culture --treating them not as simplistic fallacies of the uneducated but as complex ways of understanding the world--and in the process to show how deeply intertwined with and necessary they were to the everyday life of the age. Only then have I looked at them from the more traditional and truly frightening perspective of witch-hunts and the repressive capabilities of Renaissance society. With the example of the essays by Hsia and Gentilcore, it seems to me that understanding witchcraft and everyday magic as practices reveals just how present and permeable was the boundary between the spiritual and material worlds in Renaissance society. This was so even at the 1 bottom, where many have postulated a populace mired in material conditions of life, incapable of considering spiritual matters. The ability of ordinary people to manipulate the spiritual gave them a range of powers generally overlooked and often negatively defined and repressed by the authorities. The final essay of the volume, by Ian Moulton, looks at the wide-ranging illicit worlds of the Renaissance, both as they were envisioned by repressive authorities and literature and as they actually functioned. Moulton's impressive first book on the erotic worlds and literature of early modern England, which often looks well beyond England to discuss the erotic worlds of the Renaissance, is nicely reflected in this essay. It moves out from England and the erotic to examine themes as diverse as sodomy and banking for their illicit dimensions in this period. Again Moulton is dealing with a crucial Renaissance construct, and another highly permeable and contested boundary --the boundary between the licit and the illicit. At the beginning of the period it was a boundary passed easily for pleasure and profit, but as the period progressed the illicit seems to have become not only more externally proscribed by institutions and customs, but also more internally restricted by conscience and guilt, a theme that echoes earlier essays. Moulton works into his illicit world the way in which early stimulants such as coffee and tobacco moved in and out of illicit status, suggesting once again the role that culture plays in constructing anti-worlds and conditioning Renaissance life in general.

After reading these essays readers will come away from this volume with more questions than answers, with more things to think about than facts, with a sense of the Renaissance more as an exciting way of considering the past than as a period that they now know. For underlying our changing ways of looking at the Renaissance are profound changes in the ways of thinking about the past, which have developed over the course of the last century. Not only has the range of subjects increased exponentially as the number and range of the essays in this volume can still only suggest, but many of us are much less interested in piling up facts and knowledge. Rather, without giving up our desire to know and understand the past as best we can, we are also interested in the critical project of thinking analytically (and perhaps in an aesthetically pleasing and suggestive way as well) about how to understand the way humans live in time. Science's project vis-a-vis humanity (and it has been and remains a crucial one) has been to consider humanity outside of time, the unchanging and enduring patterns that can lend predictability to human actions. The humanist's project should focus‑as Renaissance humanists once held‑on the way in which humans live, change, and adapt, and what that means for human existence in terms of quality of life, success and, not to be overlooked, pleasure. It is my hope that these essays will contribute to rethinking the Renaissance and that larger project. So let me end this review with a typical Renaissance injunction: read, think, and play with the ideas, and applaud if you have enjoyed the performance!

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