I would like to thank David Rundle in particular for his detailed and constructive comments on the draft of this contribution. Remaining errors and shortcomings are of course my responsibility.
‘Medieval’, ‘Renaissance’, ‘modern’. Issues of periodization in Italian university history
Article first published online: 11 SEP 2013
© 2013 The Author. Renaissance Studies © 2013 The Society for Renaissance Studies, John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Special Issue: The Italian University in the Renaissance. Guest Editors: David Rundle and Alessandra Petrina
Volume 27, Issue 4, pages 487–503, September 2013
How to Cite
Denley, P. (2013), ‘Medieval’, ‘Renaissance’, ‘modern’. Issues of periodization in Italian university history. Renaissance Studies, 27: 487–503. doi: 10.1111/rest.12038
- Issue published online: 11 SEP 2013
- Article first published online: 11 SEP 2013
- institutional history;
- Italian universities;
- translatio studii
Italian university historiography is strongly influenced by current notions of periodization and change. ‘Medieval’ universities have been seen as unique but soon outdated creations, to be overtaken by ‘Renaissance’ universities in which the driving forces were the requirements of ‘princes’ or whoever else was at the helm of the ‘territorial state’. The ‘Renaissance’ universities, and even more their ‘modern’ successors, are supposed to have been more functional, more responsive to demand and to the aspirations of rulers and elites – and thus, by implication, more ‘efficient’. But this reading fails to take full cognisance of the true significance of the medieval universities, which in practice were strongly pragmatic foundations as well as idealistic ones. From the thirteenth century, Italian universities in particular were locked in a mechanism of market forces that ensured that they were constantly open to fresh initiatives and constantly subject to change. This contribution reassesses these institutions and contests the traditional chronological perspectives.