Published in 1860, Burckhardt's great work redefined our sense of the European past, wholly reinterpreting what has since been known simply as the Italian Renaissance. With unsurpassed erudition, Burckhardt illuminates a world of artistic and cultural ferment, innovation, and discovery; of revived humanism; of fierce tensions between church and empire; and of the birth of both the modern state and the modern individual. "The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy" remains the single most important and influential account of this crucial moment in the history of the West.
About the Author
Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897) intended to join the Church, but lost his faith while studying theology. Thereafter he studied history at the University of Basel, gaining his doctorate in 1843 and becoming a lecturer. He moved to the Zurich Polytechnic as Professor of Architecture and History in 1855, which is where he wrote The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. In 1858 he returned to Basel, where he lived for his work as a teacher at the University. Burckhardt's historical writings did much to establish the importance of art in the study of history; indeed, he was one of the "founding fathers of art history" but also one of the original creators of cultural history. According to John Lukacs, he was the first master of cultural history, which seeks to describe the spirit and the forms of expression of a particular age, a particular people, or a particular place. His innovative approach to historical research stressed the importance of art and its inestimable value as a primary source for the study of history. He was one of the first historians to rise above the narrow nineteenth-century notion that "history is past politics and politics current history." Burckhardt's unsystematic approach to history was strongly opposed to the interpretations of Hegelianism, which was popular at the time; economism as an interpretation of history; and positivism, which had come to dominate scientific discourses (including the discourse of the social sciences). In 1838. Burckhardt made his first journey to Italy and published his first important article, "Remarks about Swiss Cathedrals." Burckhardt is best known for his books "The History of the Renaissance in Italy" and "The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy." Burckhardt considered the study of ancient history an intellectual necessity and was a highly respected scholar of Greek civilization. "The Greeks and Greek Civilization" sums up the relevant lectures which Burckhardt first gave in 1872 and which he repeated until 1885. At his death, he was working on a four-volume survey of Greek civilization.
Hajo Holborn was Sterling Professor of History at Yale University.
“The greatest single book on the history of Italy between 1350 and 1550.”—Hajo Holborn