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The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – April 9, 2002
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Original Language: German
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a very dense work with flashes of genius as well as long scholarly footnotes with extensively quoted Italian and Latin. In a book by a dullard, this would be excruciating. But Burckhardt is anything but as he manages his material like a Moscow taxi driver: by accelerating and then coasting. When you least expect it, another epiphany draws you in.
Burckhardt's Renaissance was an incredible high in the history of mankind. The Medicis, Sforzas, and Malatestas strut their way through the history of the period; Dante, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Bramante create works of the imagination that still overpower us; popes like Julius II, Alexander VI, and Leo X combine worldliness with spirituality (sometimes); and even the average man has a face and a voice for the first time.
This book will make your blood race.
Contemporary scholarship, however, takes a more nuanced approach: while Burckhardt did indeed identify in the Renaissance new cultural, political, and artistic trends, it is now argued that the Renaissance nevertheless retained many aspects of medieval civilization while the Italians, and later other Europeans, revived classical art, architecture, and science and created a new economic and political order.
Two different publishers of this book each offer introductions by two excellent contemporary historians: the Penguin Classics version is introduced by Peter Burke, and the Random House Modern Library version is introduced by Peter Gay. In the Penguin version (reviewed here) Burke (as elsewhere) argues that the Renaissance was not the clean break with the medieval past that Burckhardt suggests, although he readily acknowledges Burckhardt's foundational contribution to early Renaissance scholarship: "Burckhardt's view of the Renaissance may be easy to criticize, but it is also difficult to replace.Read more ›
To be sure, Burckhardt did not have the advantage of the scholarship of the last 150 years, and so some of his conclusions will be outdated. For example, anyone who has read Huizinga is likely to conclude that the 14th and 15th centuries in Italy were just as much successors to the 13th century as precursors of the 16th. Anyone who has read Braudel is likely to wonder how much of what Burckhardt saw as unique to Italy was not part of a broader Mediterranean matrix that included, say, Constantinople. That the reader will not learn all there is to know about the subject from Burckhardt's book alone is a problem only for those naive enough to believe that any one history completely and accurately illuminates some aspect of the past. Historical information is always partial, but few if any have ever known more about Italy in the 14th and 15th century than did Burckhardt.
Unfortunately, the quality of this edition is so awful with such frequent typos that it is impossible to get into Burckhardt's mind and readily follow him on his journey because the reader must constantly struggle to figure out what the text should say. Read Burckhardt by all means, but not in this edition.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Though the edition I had was free of typos, and I value Burckhardt's writing for his brilliant insights which have not been invalidated by subsequent scholarship, it was quite... Read morePublished 8 months ago by J. RABINOWITZ
This work was tremendously important in terms of sparking deeper interest and study of the Renaissance. It reads remarkably well for a 19th c scholarly study.Published 17 months ago by D. F. Cicora
I find Burckhardt to be somewhat arrogant and to assume too much in his writing--and the work does not stand up as scholarship compared with other histories. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Jason Goetz
This is a classic in the development of Renaissance Studies, even if it is a work of the 19th C. and this study has been superseded by others (such as Peter Burke or Bruce Cole);... Read morePublished 22 months ago by David Rivers
This work is historically noteworthy because it redefined how history is told. The time period covered is fascinating and lends itself to the novel approach. Read morePublished on March 6, 2014 by C. Thomas Work
Great book if you are doing research. Endless flow of names makes it difficult to keep track of the story line.Published on November 25, 2013 by nelson crews