Inventing the Renaissance

Inventing the Renaissance dismantles the myth of the Renaissance golden age, revealing where that myth comes from, and the desperate and war-torn age hidden underneath.

In our ongoing pandemic, many have looked at old theories that the Black Death caused wages to rise leading to the Renaissance golden age, and asked if this means COVID will cause an economic boom. Rather than giving the short answer, “that research is out of date,” Inventing the Renaissance looks at why historical errors like that happen, how they tend to persist, and where the idea of the Renaissance as a golden age came from. It also dives deep into the era’s events and world view, showing how Renaissance thinkers enabled world-changing ideas including utilitarian ethics, egalitarianism, universal education, modern liberal arts education, the scientific method, and the modern concept of progress, as well as bad things like nationalism and European imperialism.

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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.

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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.

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