Renaissance: The Transformation of the West

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating, thought provoking and enjoyable. This is a superbly developed course. One senses both the intellectual rigour and the fervent desire to engage and entertain. The result is an engrossing and satisfying experience. The lecturer is to be commended.
Date published: 2020-09-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from bailed after three episodes I hate to post a negative review but it has to be done. As other reviewers have said, there seem to be a couple of problems with this course. First is the fervent commitment to challenging previous approaches to the Renaissance. I'm all for changing my perspective but the lens here seems to come at the expense of a lot of good and valid historical information. Second is the presentation, unfortunately. The delivery of information is rapid, with many unresolved threads, and in a newscaster sort of monotone. It just doesn't pull you in. With 48 episodes there should be PLENTY of time to ask the viewer to "imagine" or "consider" a scenario, or to paint some visuals of the time or events, but I saw none of that. It's these elements that make a course compelling.
Date published: 2020-07-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not worth your time I didn't think it was possible to go on so long and say so little. Example: Yesterday I tried the lecture, Art of the High Renaissance. A little Raphael, a little Da Vinci, a nod at Michelangelo, and many, many reflections on the way we view history, and the contrast between life now and then (some questionable.) If I wanted a course on postmodern gestures I'd get one. There were then closeups on Sofonisba Anguissola and Artemisia Gentileschi, two women artists of the Renaissance (well, one of them died in 1653, but whatev.) Good to hear about women who were long ignored, but the overall structure chooses to ignore (among others) Della Robbia, Titian, Tintoretto, Bronzino, Vernonese, Bernini, and Caravaggio; concepts like painting and the relationship to power in Venice, Medici Florence, and Rome; collective arts such as tapestries; or the intertwining theories about painting, sculpture, and poetry. That's a pretty big miss, and gives me no confidence she's making good choices on other topics.
Date published: 2020-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from GoofProduct and Service I am really enjoying the content and presentation. I like this professor a lot.
Date published: 2020-03-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very informative, great lecturer, a bit long I enjoyed this course and learned a lot, and hope that Prof McNabb does more for the TC. The title is a bit of a misnomer, because the course covers not only the Renaissance but goes well into the 17th century. For example, the Reformation is covered as well as its aftermath through the 30 years war; the Dutch defeat by the British in the 1660s is covered, and so is the execution of England's Charles I. This level of closure -- seeing these events through and tying them to their Renaissance origins -- is well done and makes sense, but the course really should be called 'Renaissance the Early Modern World' or some such. The main part dealing with the Renaissance per se is well done, but I think it would benefit from being a tad shorter. I love the way the course presents lots of useful information about culture, daily life, the economy, religion, and more as well as the politics. But I found myself skipping a lecture track now and again to move past another reading from the diary of Joe Blow (or more precisely, Giovanni Bloviatus). I found some of these readings a little tedious. Still, it's a great course, for any level of previous knowledge of the era.
Date published: 2020-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful detail I have wanted to learn more about the early day in Italy--and the Medici.
Date published: 2019-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Overview of Europe's Renaissance Every historian makes choices. Professor McNabb has made very good organizational choices for her class Renaissance: The Transformation of the West. Her first choice organizes the first lectures geographically as she outlines the major people and events of the northern Italian city-states including Florence, Rome, and Venice. Starting each lecture of that section of the course in the 1400s and then going back to roughly the same time in the next city-state can feel a bit like being snapped back by a chronological spring, but a strictly chronological choice would dilute the city-specific material too much to be coherent. Dr. McNabb’s practice of thematic organization stretches across the 48 lectures. Restarting each topic in the 1400s and proceeding chronologically. The only thing I felt missing was more introduction to the conditions that set the stage for Europe’s Renaissance. She dedicates ten lectures to the history of Christianity across the Renaissance. As a Protestant mutt (combination of several Protestant denominations and some Roman Catholic by osmosis), I found her treatment of the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Reformations very respectful and very cognizant of the political and power forces that pushed and pulled the wars between Protestant and Catholic armies. In short, these wars were about political power as much or more than faith. I heard a very balanced description of these events. Dr. McNabb’s numerous references to primary sources and descriptions of artwork and places strongly suggest that she is incredibly well read and well travelled. Consequently, she conveys a very deep understanding of the forces pushing and pulling the political, social, religious, artistic, and literary events and trends in Western Europe from the late 14th through mid 17th centuries.
Date published: 2019-09-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Course! This course expands the traditional temporal scope of the Renaissance to include treatments of the late Middle Ages through the Thirty Years’ War and the early Age Of Exploration. The focus Is Europe although there is a fascinating contextual reference to the voyages of the Chinese Treasure Fleet in the 14th Century and to the early European voyages around Africa, to Asia, and to the Western Hemisphere. This being a course on the Renaissance, I was a bit skeptical when the professor started in on the Reformation, but was quickly won over. The rationale is persuasive, the exposition of events is clear, and cultural developments are explored in considerable depth with considerable insight. The presentation is lively and sophisticated. I’ve been studying these periods for more than 50 years and this is the clearest picture of those times past I have ever encountered. I am a long time Teaching Company customer having taken many, many courses, and, in my opinion, this is one of the best.
Date published: 2019-09-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from I bought the course to increase my appreciation of Renaissance Florence. Despite endless detail delivered in a monotone, a small fraction related to Florence. The speaker seemed to be reading the words, without the spontaneity, immediacy, or fun of a college class in a classroom. A few new and interesting points were raised, e.g. the Renaissance hardly affected women or the mass of common people.
Date published: 2019-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well Done McNabb is excellent. She delivers succinct, tight lectures with always something new or interesting to learn from each, and there are a lot...48. She's an excellent professor and I'm very thankful she took this project on.
Date published: 2019-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Impressive scope Much of the material in the course was a review for me, having done some graduate studies in history from Late Antiquity through the Reformation, informal reading, and other offerings from The Great Courses. I was struck by how many areas Prof. McNabb covers and enjoyed the course. (The one thing that bothered me, as a student of languages, was her use of a schwa sound at the end of Italian words like d'Este. Maybe it's just me but I have never heard an anglicization like that and Italian never blurs a vowel to that extent. A really minor quibble. Her handling of non-English proper names is generally excellent. I listen to courses while driving, so being able to visualize what I hear is important.)
Date published: 2019-09-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Very Disappointing. This course features hundreds of Italian, French, and German names, cities, and key terms. I think it's a fair expectation they be pronounced clearly and professionally. But they weren't. The Italian was painfully inaccurate and very confusing at times. Hearing common words like Giotto, Giovanni, Masaccio, Ciompi, Strozzi, Favia, Signoria, Gasparo, etc. mispronounced over and over again for the first 15 lectures was like entering the Twilight Zone. Verrocchio doesn't rhyme with Pinocchio? Giotto has 3 syllables? My second grade social studies teacher did better with Genoa (not je-Noah) when we learned about Christopher Columbus as children. And those are the common words. You can usually figure them out with a little effort. The bigger problem was trying to decipher the new and unfamiliar names, which were interesting to learn about, but I couldn't quite catch their names due to the speaker's horrendous diction and unfamiliarity with even the most basic elements of Italian pronunciation. That's when this course became a nightmare. Hearing Masaccio or Giotto mispronounced 5 or 10 times each in single lectures was simply torturous. German words were sometimes even worse. I think I hit the rewind button five times trying to decipher the 'Bunsche?' Revolts in Lecture 21, 30'35". In so doing, I also got to hear the word 'Jacquerie' from the previous sentence 5 times, a two-syllable French word that somehow has 3 syllables when Prof. McNabb pronounces it in her finest French accent. I eventually gave up on 'Bunsche' until I got home--did I mention I speak German fluently?--only to find it's not in the guidebook. Days later, with some creative googling and sheer determination, I solved the mystery: Bundschuh, whereby 'schuh' should sound like, well, the 'shoe' that it is! Neither Jacquerie nor Bundschuh were ever clarified in that lecture, just mispronounced once in a drive-by and thrown on the heap with all the other name-droppings that already overpopulate this course. French vocab was generally fine until you get a hard word like Reims, which was botched beyond recognition. I assume she meant that city based solely on context and how a person who didn't know better might mispronounce it. I've taken hundreds of Great Courses over the years, and all professors I can recall present core vocab clearly and professionally, serving as role models for us to repeat those words with confidence in later conversation. That's one of the reasons I buy these audio/visual courses. This course fell woefully short of that standard. Otherwise, Prof. McNabb has a pleasant speaking voice (in English) and some lectures were wonderful. I enjoyed learning about her research in England and the discussions of northern Renaissance life for men, women, and children. But most of the journey was tedious and disappointing. I would not recommend this course to anyone I know.
Date published: 2019-07-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Renaissance revisited There is no doubt Dr McNabb knows the subject, the issue is the transfer of this information, or too much of it in these lectures. Too many names, too many places, too many events, given without adequate context or summary. I have a great interest in this era of european history and its profound impact on our world and thinking today. I do not think this course brings one much further along in that quest. I have over thirty Great Courses in my library and this one is undoubtedly the hardest to follow.
Date published: 2019-06-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disjointed I’m having a difficult time completing the series. The early lectures seem to jump around a lot. I’ve had difficulty putting things into perspective.
Date published: 2019-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Never Ending Learning I've been listening to The Great Courses CD's in my car for about 15 years. The Renaissance is my latest course. It helps to know where we come from. The lecture makesvme feel like I was there while it was happening.
Date published: 2019-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazingly Good! I own and have watched a number of Great Courses, and this one surpasses them all. The material is excellent and very well arranged. The presenter is the best I have had. Dr. McNabb doesn't just know her stuff; she presents it clearly, professionally and leaves you at the end of each episode wanting to go on to the next one, no matter how late it is! 48 Episodes go by in a flash!
Date published: 2019-03-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from MUST have advanced knowledge of the subject I have read quite a bit on the Italian Renaissance - including several from The Great Courses: Italian Renaissance by Bartlett, Italians before Italy by Bartlett, Books that Matter: The Prince, etc., but I found the first several chapters of this lecture unnecessarily arduous. Names, important families, places were covered so rapidly it was impossible to build a good umbrella over the subject with some solid anchoring information. For one of her three key Renaissance Men, Professor McNabb chose Baldassare Castiglione. It seemed she did this mainly to introduce his text Il Cortegiano. I was surprised not to find Federico da Montefeltro, who is widely considered a key Renaissance Man, as one of those three. She easily could have then flowed the lecture to Montefeltro’s heir Guidobaldo da Montefeltro and to his court which included Castiglione. Finally, Professor McNabb’s mispronunciation of important Italian people and places is brutal! I had to re-listen to a section several times to figure out to which town she was referring when she pronounced the town of Pesaro like the name of the explorer of Peru, Pizarro. It is appalling that a professor cannot pronounce important Italian names in what is her field of expertise. Mispronouncing names such as Masaccio, Giovanni, etc. is mind numbing! To add a bit of balance to this review - her chapter on Women in the Renaissance was interesting.
Date published: 2019-02-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from No matter how much you know, it fills in blanks I've written about leaders of the Renaissance, been to many of the key places, and the only resource for the general public I found more helpful was Will Durant's The Story of Civilization. The critic who was going to give up after six lectures has the opposite spirit about learning the Renaissance stimulated.
Date published: 2019-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Welcome to the Renaissance!! I practically salivated when this course was released. I have read every book on the Renaissance and watched all of the Great Courses on the subject but this course was a joy from start to finish. Essentially it is a general overview of the Renaissance as a historical event and the effects it had on creating modern Europe. Since the Teaching Company as already produced many courses on the subject especially in different areas like art and music, Professor McNabb takes her time to look at such issues like statecraft, poetry, letters, and daily life. The lectures on daily life were particularly interesting to me as this is a subject area that I feel we need to know more about. Professor McNabb gave a nuanced and well-rounded look at how average people lived their lives and who never made it into the history books. This course gave me a more well-rounded portrait of the Renaissance as a pivot in the modern history of Europe and the world.
Date published: 2019-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eloquent exposition Very detailed in her exposition. Best course on the subject
Date published: 2019-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Superb Course; Broad and Deep; Elegantly Taught This is a fascinating and beautifully taught overview of the Renaissance, worthwhile for any who are not already expert. Most courses sacrifice breadth for depth, or the reverse. Because of its length and the ability of our professor, this one offers both. It covers appropriately the history leading up to the Renaissance and also offers a significant look at the century or so after its traditional ending, to help us understand its legacy. And in addition to reviewing the major themes of Renaissance history, many details are provided to make them real. The information density of each lecture is extraordinarily high. Professor McNabb is outstanding. She is highly knowledgeable and superbly organized, and speaks in a well-modulated voice in eloquent English. Some of the negative reviews note the preponderance of specific facts and a relative lack of synthesizing generalities. To me, this is a strength of this course, and a major revelation - the Renaissance, Professor McNabb emphasizes, was not a neatly partitioned bit of history, nicely sandwiched between the Middle Ages and the Reformation and Enlightenment, as it certainly was taught in my own schooling. The many and diverse groups within society and between countries experienced the Renaissance very differently, and the boundaries between it and the preceding and subsequent periods were anything but distinct. I particularly appreciated our professor's stress on "ordinary" people, in addition to the usual "big man / big event" approach. The lecture titles will give you an accurate idea of the topics discussed. The superb final lecture does provide a concise review of the overarching themes of the course and of the Renaissance. In fact, I strongly recommend watching this first, to give you a useful conceptualization of what is to come. So - This course has my highest recommendation for any with an interest in Western (or, indeed, world) history, and a desire to understand how we got where we are, for better and for worse. Yes, it will take some time and concentration. It's worth it.
Date published: 2019-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative As a high school teacher, I thought I needed to brush up on the Renaissance. This course fit the bill for that purpose. It's a longer course but I listened to it as I drove to work and it gave me confidence as I taught some unfamiliar subject matter.
Date published: 2019-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Important historical context and information Really enjoying this course. Some refreshing views of the Renaissance - not the usual single perspective. Instructor very knowledgeable.
Date published: 2018-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant teacher! I watched all 48 lectures. This course was superb. There were so many new things I learned about the Renaissance from Professor McNabb.
Date published: 2018-12-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too disjointed and superficial I enjoyed Daileader's course on Late Middle Ages and Bartlett's course on the Italian Renaissance, and was hoping this course would help consolidate my knowledge from those and help fill in the 'holes', with more on the Northern Renaissance and Reformation. However, I find the presentation too superficial and disjointed, it's virtually impossible to put together an "integrated picture" of what's going on. There are too many asserted vague generalities that don't connect to anything. Too often, names and events are dropped in and dismissed with a sentence or two (which is bewildering if I have no prior knowledge of them, and adds nothing if I do.) I would feel lost at sea if not for the more in-depth, integrated treatment of many people and events I had already learned from Daileader and Bartlett. That said, some individual lectures are focused enough and go deep enough to be interesting (e.g., on Luther), but that's the exception. With the vast majority of Teaching Company courses, I "can't wait" to get to the next lecture. With this course, I'm really dragging, it feels more like a chore to get through it, and I keep contemplating giving up on it altogether.
Date published: 2018-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Presentation Since I studied history in college and took a masters in modern European history, much of this course was a review for me. That said, Professor McNabb's conversational style provided a great deal of information and discussion of historical interpretations in a deceptively easy to digest manner. I especially appreciated the time she spent on the Reformation and the not-always easy relationship its leaders had with Humanism.
Date published: 2018-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great introductory course I am almost through the 48 lectures and for the most part I have enjoyed Prof. McNabb's presentations. Her Italian pronunciation needs some work though. I rated her presentation as good based on this. She also needs to correct her mistake regarding Michelangelo's David. The "real" David is housed in the Accademia and not in the Uffizi. If I were at her university I think I would seriously consider any courses she teaches.
Date published: 2018-11-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A Passable Course I love the Great Courses. My mid-life crisis was discovering my mind had turned into a useless pudding and deciding it was time to force thoughts into that pudding to see if a brain could be reforged. By happenstance a Great Courses magazine came into my life and a 100ish courses later, I seem to have a functioning mind and an invigorating hobby. In that time I've come to judge courses by passion, performance and expertise. In the first seven minutes of the second lecture in the lovely new course on Mesopotamia, the instructor took subjects I knew well and gave new insight and made my laugh. The topics were the agricultural revolution, language and viewpoint, well worn to any armchair historian. Yet the instructor's mention that our own earlier lack of cell and smartphones hadn't made us feel somehow deprived when we had to physically 'dial' a phone and hope our friend was home reminded me of the evolution of technology from the other side. I wasn't less human before my smartphone, nor were hunters and gatherers less human before agriculture. They were just like us with sophisticated language and sophistication in hunting and gathering. Through this instruction the professor has a twinkle in her eye and a clear love for teaching me about a subject she is passionate about and indeed has made her life's work. Why this long ramble? Because this course on the Renaissance is the antithesis of the seven minute experience I mentioned above. This is history taught with a sneer, a tabloid history featuring brief autobiographies that search for the folly and failure in the lives of the great men of history and taught with the shallow knowledge of a high school level course. To be fair this is a better description of the first 20 lectures than the later 28. It is the Italian Renaissance and history of the arts that seem most effected by this treatment. The lectures on Renaissance life are much better and the high point of the course with the coverage of the Reformation also coming closer to a quality college overview. The later lectures on subjects like science and exploration return to being rather trite with little content. The focus of the course is generally on people, while this is good in some ways and for a brilliant treatment see the Other Side of History, it seems to come at the expense of everything else. There is little geography or sense of place, in part due to a lack of maps, little technology, little economics or the other non-people things that explain why things happened and ground a course. Often I thought that if this were a course on the history of middle earth it wouldn't have felt more of less grounded in reality than it did set in Renaissance Europe. Mostly what is missing is the joy. Many Great Courses Instructors revel in teaching you personally (yes I know that is an illusion), in the subject they love, in storytelling and showmanship and just the whole concept of passing on knowledge in a memorable and enjoyable way. This is workmanlike. It is going to a job at a blue block retail store and selling cellphones. The knowledge is passable, the style is passable, the course is passable. Now I'm off to learn about ancient people in the Tigris and Euphrates Valleys learning to poke holes in the mud and plant seeds, packing mud into bricks and leaving them outside to dry and inventing funny writing that looks like geometry. I'm going to enjoy myself no end because I have a wonderful teacher which is the case with most Great Courses.
Date published: 2018-10-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well spoken, well organized Articulate and erudite, Dr. McNabb does an excellent job of leading the listener through the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. The course is well organized, and Dr. McNabb is clearly in control of the material. My only complaint, and this is not really her fault, is the course is too ambitious. It covers prodigious material; consequently, it cannot really plumb the depths. The good news is that there are great courses on Machiavelli, The Italian Renaissance, and Renaissance Art also available. Use this as a broad overview. Then research more trenchantly. Bravo to Dr. McNabb!
Date published: 2018-10-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth the Time This is a LONG (48 lectures) course covering history, visual arts, music, and literature of Europe from the 14th century to the 16th century. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile. Although Dr. McNabb takes an expansive view of the Renaissance, she comes across as well-versed in the entire spectrum of knowledge. This course is valuable to anybody interested in the birth of Western modernity and why it took the shape it did. The scope of the course is sweeping. It starts with the Italian Renaissance and then proceeds northward to the Northern Renaissance. It continues past the normally accepted boundaries of the Renaissance to the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Reformation. It adds sections on life of ordinary persons, wars of the sixteenth century, and the Age of Discovery. It is valuable to see the continuity of all these eras. Dr. McNabb is knowledgeable on this extended era of history. Her presentation style is easy to follow although it is more low-key than other teachers for The Great Courses. She is respectful of all religions mentioned in the course without indicating a preference for any of them. Dr. McNabb’s specialty is history of marriage. I hope that TGC notices this an adds a course on that topic. I used the video version. With the exception of the short section on arts of the Italian Renaissance, the audio version would probably have been just as good. In retrospect, I probably should have gotten the audio version.
Date published: 2018-09-20
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Renaissance: The Transformation of the West
Course Trailer
The Spirit of Renaissance
1: The Spirit of Renaissance

How did the Renaissance—as it occurred in Italy and in other parts of Europe—pioneer a new way of thinking about history itself? Who, exactly, was the typical “Renaissance Man”? Get answers to these and other questions about the Renaissance’s powerful fusion of classical and medieval worldviews.

33 min
Rebirth: Classical Values Made New
2: Rebirth: Classical Values Made New

Here, consider how the key contexts and values of the European Renaissance set the stage for a new era of questions. The two chief examples you’ll use to chart the origins of the European Renaissance are the Black Death and the letters of Petrarch.

27 min
The Medieval Roots of Italian Renaissance
3: The Medieval Roots of Italian Renaissance

Discover why the Renaissance first bloomed in, of all places, Italy. First, look at the politics and economics of medieval Italian states. Then, explore how the legacies of antiquity gained traction throughout the peninsula. Finally, consider the influence of trade revivals, a dynamic social order, and the profits from holy wars.

32 min
The Rise of the Humanists
4: The Rise of the Humanists

Focus on one of the most-challenging foundational concepts of the Renaissance: humanism. Professor McNabb outlines how and why education underwent its extreme makeover, explores the fields that dominated this new way of learning, and introduces you to humanist schools and schoolmasters.

33 min
Renaissance Florence: Age of Gold
5: Renaissance Florence: Age of Gold

Florence, defined by hierarchy and inequality, has become synonymous with the Italian Renaissance. How did this happen? Here, you will explore the complex political journey of this “most noble” of cities from model republic to six decades of domination by the iconic Medici family, and back again.

31 min
Renaissance Venice: More Serene Republic
6: Renaissance Venice: More Serene Republic

Dive into the byzantine history and legacy of Venice during the period of the Renaissance, when the city managed to prosper even without that most valuable of commodities: land. Learn how Venice was shaped by its merchant elite, how it joined the ranks of Italian city-states, and how Venice experienced humanism.

30 min
Renaissance Rome and the Papal States
7: Renaissance Rome and the Papal States

Investigate how the new learning in Rome challenged the wisdom of centuries of spiritual authority as the capital of Christianity. While exploring Rome’s papal history, encounter the noble family who considered it their birthright to wield control over the city: the infamous Borgias (including Cesare and Pope Alexander VI).

32 min
Renaissance Italy’s Princes and Rivals
8: Renaissance Italy’s Princes and Rivals

In this lecture, turn to the other great power players in Renaissance Italy, including the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily and the duchy of Milan. Then, examine the eclipse of the age of the republics by the age of the tyrants: elite families who used cunning to obtain—and maintain—positions of authority.

33 min
Renaissance Man as Political Animal
9: Renaissance Man as Political Animal

Renaissance Man can perhaps best be understood as an educational and political ideal, someone as schooled in warfare as he was in classical antiquity. Here, meet three men whose lives and works exemplify different iterations of the Renaissance Man in action: Niccolò Machiavelli, Baldassare Castiglione, and Leon Battista Alberti.

31 min
Women and the Italian Renaissance Court
10: Women and the Italian Renaissance Court

Step inside 15th- and 16th-century Italian courts to investigate how a number of smart, powerful, and cunning women helped steer the course of the Renaissance. Among the women you’ll meet are Isabella d’Este, noted for her trendsetting sense of style and substance, and the Italian poet, Veronica Franco.

33 min
Painting in the Early Italian Renaissance
11: Painting in the Early Italian Renaissance

Using the careers and works of artists like Masaccio, Giotto, and Botticelli, discover how early Renaissance painting innovated and celebrated the experience of being human. In addition, you’ll examine the business side of art, including matters of patronage that were central to artists during the Italian Renaissance.

33 min
 Painting in the High Italian Renaissance
12: Painting in the High Italian Renaissance

Turn now to the High Italian Renaissance era of painting, credited with a veritable artistic revolution in the art form. During this time, artists like Leonardo and Michelangelo were celebrities who rubbed shoulders with the rich and powerful. Not to be overlooked: the role of women painters, including Artemisia Gentileschi.

33 min
Italian Sculpture, Architecture, and Music
13: Italian Sculpture, Architecture, and Music

Learn how Renaissance architects and city planners—including Donato Bramante, Sebastian Serlio, and Andrea Palladio—imbued sculpture and architecture with tremendous ideological and practical power. Then, discover how Renaissance musicians helped move music out of the religious sphere and into the princely courts.

33 min
Letters in the Italian Renaissance
14: Letters in the Italian Renaissance

In this lecture, examine the lives and careers of a trio of fascinating Renaissance authors who used their words to help write the Renaissance into the pages of history. Professor McNabb covers the merchant, Francesco Datini; the artist-biographer, Giorgio Vasari; and the Florentine historian, Francesco Guicciardini.

32 min
Renaissance Statecraft: A New Path
15: Renaissance Statecraft: A New Path

Venture to the other side of the Alps for a closer look at what’s known as the “Northern Renaissance.” You’ll chart the political evolution of the region from barbarism to feudalism to feudal monarchy, explore why feudal monarchies trended toward weakness, and get a brief overview of power struggles among northern kings.

35 min
European Renaissance Monarchies
16: European Renaissance Monarchies

Turn the lens on the monarchical rivalries of the Northern Renaissance, which changed the course of Western politics as much as the rivalries in Italy. Focus on the rule of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, the rise of the Tudors in England, and the waxing power of France.

33 min
The Birth of the Christian Renaissance
17: The Birth of the Christian Renaissance

Consider the development of humanist thought in the north, which commingled with the idea of a Christian rebirth and a reordering of society’s morals that planted the seeds for the Reformation. Among the inquisitive and critical Christian humanists you’ll encounter are Erasmus and Thomas More.

34 min
Northern Renaissance Art and Music
18: Northern Renaissance Art and Music

Using works by Matthias Grünewald, Jan van Eyck, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Hans Holbein the Younger, and others, explore how northern artists breathed artistic life into themes of faith, duty, and fidelity. Then, visit the court of the dukes of Burgundy for a look at the music of Guillaume Dufay.

33 min
Northern Renaissance Literature and Drama
19: Northern Renaissance Literature and Drama

Meet the Northern Renaissance authors and playwrights who offered entertainments and edification in the page and on the stage—authors who would become some of the greatest writers in Western history. These geniuses include François Rabelais; Miguel de Cervantes; William Langland; Geoffrey Chaucer; and, of course, William Shakespeare.

35 min
Did Women Have a Renaissance?
20: Did Women Have a Renaissance?

Examine the “woman question”: the contemporary debate about Renaissance women’s abilities and deficiencies. The question, as you’ll learn, was really about access to education. Along the way, you’ll consider whether we can say women had a renaissance of their own—and why that issue still matters today.

33 min
Renaissance Life: The Rural Experience
21: Renaissance Life: The Rural Experience

In the first of several sketches on the conditions of Renaissance life, explore the geographical setting where the vast majority of the European population lived at the time: the countryside. You’ll look at festivals and feast days, types of settlements, the competition for land, and the peasant rebellions that followed.

35 min
Renaissance Life: The Urban Experience
22: Renaissance Life: The Urban Experience

How exactly do we define “urban” during the Renaissance? How did three, early modern institutions—craft guilds, confraternities, and public drinking establishments—help to define the urban experience? Find out in Professor McNabb’s fascinating lecture on the urban experiences of rich and poor alike.

35 min
Renaissance Life: Crime, Deviance, and Honor
23: Renaissance Life: Crime, Deviance, and Honor

Continue exploring daily life during the Renaissance by turning to issues of personal crisis—and their consequences. In studying crime, deviance, and Renaissance attitudes toward honor and shame, you’ll discover how early modern communities and authorities sought to order the world and project their morality.

32 min
Renaissance Life: Marriage
24: Renaissance Life: Marriage

Marriage during the Renaissance was a major component of the “good life” during the period. It was also a complicated affair shaped by the intersection of private desires with more practical considerations. Delve into the ways Renaissance societies constructed marriage, and how marriage customs differed depending on geographic location.

34 min
Renaissance Life: Home and Hearth
25: Renaissance Life: Home and Hearth

What was domestic life like during the Renaissance? Get a feel for it with this lecture that highlights several topics related to home and hearth. These topics include: food culture (with a focus on baking), the practicalities of dress, the details about childrearing, and the role of servants and retainers.

34 min
Renaissance Faith: Medieval Contexts
26: Renaissance Faith: Medieval Contexts

Examine the two medieval heavyweights whose legendary disputes illustrate some key points about faith and power in the Renaissance world: King Philip IV of France and Pope Boniface VIII. Then, learn how new and revitalized orders—including Ci stercians and Franciscans—attracted adherents in astonishing numbers.

34 min
Renaissance Faith: The Papacy
27: Renaissance Faith: The Papacy

The particular conditions of 15th- and 16th-century Italy allowed the popes to augment their power and fashion themselves as rulers. Here, explore papal programs designed to cement Rome as Christendom’s true capital (after a century of geographic dislocations) and their architects, including Nicholas V, Pius II, and Sixtus IV.

33 min
Renaissance Faith: Religious Uniformity
28: Renaissance Faith: Religious Uniformity

Take a closer look at the ways in which European political authorities dealt with matters of faith in their drive to enhance authority. You’ll learn about English theologian John Wyclif’s challenges to traditional Christian authority, the persecution of European Jews, and the birth of the Inquisition.

34 min
Luther: Breaking the Christian Consensus
29: Luther: Breaking the Christian Consensus

The Renaissance is vital to understanding how Martin Luther took on the church and not only survived but thrived, initiating a protest movement that put an end to more than 1,000 years of Christian consensus. Start considering Martin Luther as a man of a very particular historical moment.

34 min
Radical Reform in Renaissance Europe
30: Radical Reform in Renaissance Europe

Professor McNabb highlights the many fractures that strengthened the shockwaves Martin Luther created in Christianity—some of which he couldn’t foresee or control. Learn the importance of the Anabaptists, the tumult of the German Peasants’ War, and why Martin Luther resists easy demonization or lionization.

33 min
Renaissance and Reformation: Connections
31: Renaissance and Reformation: Connections

Turn your attention to various calls for a reformation of faith identifiably shaped by the new learning of the Renaissance and the ideas of Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin. Calvin’s ideas traveled on to Scotland, where the Reformation, working in tandem with powerful men, toppled a monarch from the throne.

32 min
English Reformation
32: English Reformation

Embark on an exciting look at the causes, processes, and consequences of the Tudor reformations, featuring some of the most famous personages in English history, including Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, and Elizabeth I. What made this path to reform so different from events playing elsewhere on the European continent?

34 min
Catholic Reformations: The Road to Trent
33: Catholic Reformations: The Road to Trent

Why didn’t the Catholic Church defeat the Reformation? Why didn’t it do more to stop Martin Luther? Cultivate a new way of thinking about the papal response to the theological revolution—epitomized by the Council of Trent, which created a Roman Catholic identity.

34 min
Catholic Reformations: Spiritual Revival
34: Catholic Reformations: Spiritual Revival

In the face of the slings and arrows of Protestant reformers, the Catholic Church lauded a number of individuals whose commitment to the “true faith” offered a balance to the Reformation that threatened to bury Catholicism. Learn how men and women became exemplars of piety during the Catholic Reformation.

33 min
Reformation Culture: Continuity and Change
35: Reformation Culture: Continuity and Change

Get a feel for what it was like to be a Protestant or Catholic in Reformation Europe. Your focus here: the culture wars that accompanied this period, including the rise of iconoclasts like Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, the use of vernacular language in religious services, and the dawn of Baroque art.

35 min
Renaissance War and Peace: Diplomacy
36: Renaissance War and Peace: Diplomacy

In the first of several lectures on the interaction among the states of early modern Europe, learn how diplomacy operated in a Europe increasingly characterized by religious dissention and violence. Central to this subject is the important role of permanent ambassadors and other diplomatic figures.

34 min
The French Wars of Religion
37: The French Wars of Religion

Religious violence kept France in its grip for an entire century. Discover how the French Wars of Religion sparked both bloodshed and a new way of thinking about the relationship between individuals and the figures of power to whom they owed allegiance (a favorite topic of Renaissance writers).

35 min
The Dutch Revolt
38: The Dutch Revolt

Witness a number of factors you’ve examined in other lectures collide in a fascinating (if also, destructive and costly) way during the Dutch Revolt. You’ll also see a glimmer of the new demands of early modern warfare and the role of print in presenting a platform for action.

34 min
 The Spanish Armada
39: The Spanish Armada

Get the full story behind the Spanish Armada by paying attention to three key issues: the rivalry of Philip of Spain and Elizabeth I of England, the Spanish Armada’s fateful engagement with the English in the summer of 1588, and the untidy consequences of Spain’s defeat.

31 min
The Thirty Years’ War
40: The Thirty Years’ War

Welcome to ground zero of religious warfare during the Age of Reformation: The Thirty Years’ War, which would engulf most of the European continent. By the end of this lecture, you’ll learn how this struggle drew the map of Europe that would exist until the French Revolution.

33 min
Renaissance at Arms: The Military Revolution
41: Renaissance at Arms: The Military Revolution

What, exactly, constitutes a military revolution? What are the four major changes that happened between 1560 and 1660 that transformed warfare? How did a typical warrior from the 15th century compare to his counterpart 200 years later? How did large gunpowder weaponry influence other military developments?

34 min
Renaissance and the Birth of Modern Science
42: Renaissance and the Birth of Modern Science

Professor McNabb guides you through the intersection of Renaissance values and patronage with the new ways of thinking about the universe brought about by the Scientific Revolution. See how many of the activities and individuals associated with this period exhibit key dynamics of the Renaissance covered in other lectures.

35 min
Renaissance and Magic: Witchcraft
43: Renaissance and Magic: Witchcraft

Between 1450 and 1700, somewhere between 40,000 to 60,000 people were executed on charges of witchcraft. Why did ideas about demons and witches have such an appeal in early modern Europe? How did these beliefs produce a new type of criminal to be targeted by secular and spiritual authorities?

34 min
Renaissance Encounters with Islam
44: Renaissance Encounters with Islam

From the Reconquista to the collapse of Christian Constantinople to the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent, examine the relationship between Christians and Muslims during the early modern period—a relationship of competition and coexistence that shaped the development of the Western tradition.

32 min
Renaissance and Exploration: Motives
45: Renaissance and Exploration: Motives

The Age of Discovery can be thought of, in many ways, as a Renaissance project. Here, you’ll learn many of the values, motivations, and conflicts that fostered preconditions for European exploration, including a curiosity about the natural world, technological innovations, and the underlying quest for glory and riches.

33 min
Renaissance and Exploration: New Horizons
46: Renaissance and Exploration: New Horizons

How did Portugal and Spain set out to build overseas empires? Examine the first round of European expansion in the Americas and the Indian Ocean basin in the broader contexts of the Renaissance. Along the way, follow the journeys and discoveries of explorers like Christopher Columbus and Francisco Pizarro.

33 min
Early Modern Power: The New Global Rivalries
47: Early Modern Power: The New Global Rivalries

Turn now to other European states joining the race for global empire. Consider the developments of three states—the Dutch Republic, Britain, and France—in an age of change, and learn how they helped spell the demise of the Ancien Régime and the birth of the modern world.

34 min
Renaissance Legacy: Burckhardt and Beyond
48: Renaissance Legacy: Burckhardt and Beyond

Return to the critical question that started this entire course: Have we reached the end of the Renaissance? Professor McNabb uses this concluding lecture to reflect on the meaning of the Renaissance for its contemporaries, for subsequent historians like Jacob Burckhardt, and for us in the 21st century.

37 min
Jennifer McNabb

We’re Renaissance people. We’ve updated some aspects of the Renaissance past and infused it with our own contemporary concerns. And, such activities are in keeping with the Renaissance as well.


University of Colorado, Boulder


Western Illinois University

About Jennifer McNabb

Dr. Jennifer McNabb is a professor of history and the chair of the Department of History at Western Illinois University. She received her PhD in History from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2003. Since joining Western Illinois University in 2005, Professor McNabb has received the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Faculty Award for Teaching and for Service. She also served as the associate director of the University of Illinois Centennial Honors College.

Professor McNabb has spoken and published widely on social relationships in early modern Europe, especially courtship and marriage. In addition to articles in journals such as the Journal of Women’s History and Quidditas, she has authored material for several textbooks on Western civilization and European history. Professor McNabb has served as president of the Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association and is the former chair of the program committee of the Midwest Conference on British Studies. In 2018, she was appointed as the Advanced Placement European History Chief Reader.

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