Inventing the Renaissance

The Renaissance period is one of the most studied and celebrated eras of history. Spanning the end of the Middle Ages to the beginning of modernity, it has come to symbolise the transformative rebirth of knowledge, art, culture and political thought in Europe. And for the last two hundred years, historians have been trying desperately to identify what makes this period unique.

In Inventing the Renaissance, acclaimed historian Ada Palmer provides a fresh perspective on what makes this epoch so captivating. She is witty and irreverent about the fantasies that historians have constructed about the period. She examines the defining figures and movements: the enduring legacy of Niccolò Machiavelli, the rediscovery of the classics, the rise and fall of the Medici family, the astonishing artistic achievements of Michelangelo, Leonardo and Cellini, and the expansion of secular Humanism. Palmer also explores the daily lives of the poor, the artisans and the rich. Books, for example, could cost as much as grand houses and were major investments for any ambitious family. She offers fifteen character portraits of ‘typical’ Renaissance men and women, some famous, some obscure, which are brilliant, provocative and entertaining.

Drawing on her popular online blogs and writing with her characteristic energy and wit, Palmer presents the Renaissance period as we have never seen it before. Colloquial, funny and brilliant, this is the least boring work of scholarship you’re ever likely to read.

Read More

The Recovery of Classical Philosophy in the Renaissance, a Brief Guide

Co-authored with James Hankins. Leo S. Olschki, 2008.

The Recovery of Ancient Philosophy in the Renaissance: A Brief Guide, by James Hankins and Ada Palmer, shows at what point the major texts and sources of ancient pagan pholosophy became available in Renaissance Europe, with entries organized by philosophical school.  A vital reference for scholars of the recovery of ancient thought.

Read More

Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance

Harvard University Press, 2014.

In Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance, Ada Palmer explores how Renaissance readers, such as Machiavelli, Pomponio Leto, and Montaigne, actually ingested and disseminated the rediscovered Lucretius, and the ways in which the process of reading this brilliant but heretical ancient author  transformed modern thought.

Read More