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HISTORY 3H03 ItalianRenaissance:1300-1600

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Megan Armstrong

Email: marmstr@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 626

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24141


Office Hours: Friday 9:30 - 10:20 a.m. or by appointment

Course Objectives:


This course explores the intellectual and cultural legacy of the Italian Renaissance upon Western societies. The period 1300-1600 witnessed a dramatic transformation in the nature of Italian culture, visible in its political, artistic, and intellectual traditions. Over the course of several weeks students will study some of the most influential texts produced during this period on a range of topics including family and kinship, republicanism, patronage, medicine, and humanism.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


Kenneth Bartlett, A Short History of the Italian Renaissance (UTP, 2013). e-book also available


All other assigned reading materials and  documents will be posted on AVL or linked to a website through a URL. The Letters of Petrarch will be taken from the Internet Medieval History Sourcebook (Fordham U). The Book of the Courtier will have a separate site.


You will find them attached through a URL and also directly through the web. Secondary articles will be attached directly to weekly assignments.

Method of Assessment:


Students will have a choice to produce either two short papers or one long research paper. All students will write quizzes and the final exam. one short paper, one research paper, and final exam.

Descriptions of the written assignments will be posted on Avenue to Learn.

Grade Breakdown

Option 1

5 quizzes                                             20

2 short papers                                      30

Tutorial                                                20

Final Exam                                          30%


Option 2

weekly quizzes (5 at 4% each)          20%

Tutorial participation                           20%

Research Paper            (2000-2500)    30%

Final Exam                                          30%


In this class you will receive letter grades. The following is a guideline of what level of

work is required for what grade:

A-/A/A+ - 80-100% - outstanding. The work is clear, well-written, persuasive and error free.

B-/B/B+ – 70-79% - good. The work is solid, well-written and well-argued.

C-/C/C+ – 60-69% - average. Meets the minimum requirements of the class.

D-/D/D+ – 50-59% - weak. Some effort was expended, but the paper is insufficiently

supported or executed.

F – below 50% - a failing grade. The work is unacceptable.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Please note: late papers will be penalized 3% a day including weekends. Students will give their essays to their tutorial assistant or to the instructor during tutorial class time. Essays may not be submitted by email or fax. Students are also expected to keep a copy of their paper. It is also the policy of this course that students cannot expect to rewrite their papers or borrow class notes from their instructors.

Submission of Course Work

Students are advised to retain a photocopy of each essay they submit, and to keep all research notes for their essays. History essays will be marked for clarity of writing, grammar, and organization, in addition to content and analysis. Work should be submitted on time. Permission to submit a late assignment is at the discretion of the instructor and, except in exceptional instances, a penalty will be imposed for late submission without prior discussion with me (3% per day).

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Course Schedule

January 2-6

Week 1            Introduction: What was the Renaissance?

1 lecture

Reading: textbook, Chapter 1

Group work: Introduce yourselves

Jan 9-13

Week 2:          Petrarch and Early Humanism

Readings: Textbook: ch. 4

3 lectures

Group work: analyze assigned Letter by Petrarch


Jan 16-20

Week 3:           The Republic of Florence and Civic Humanism

3 lectures

Readings:  Textbook, ch. 5

Group work: Concept Map

Jan 23-27

Week 4:          Humanism and Education

2 lectures

Readings: T 5, article:  Margaret King, “Thwarted Ambitions: Six Learned Women of the Italian Renaissance” Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal 59 (Fall 1976): 280-304.

 Group work: article analysis, roles


Jan 30-Feb 3

Week 5:          Art and Architecture

2 lectures

Readings: T, ch. 14

Group work: Painting assignment

Feb 6-10         

Week 6: The Renaissance in Venice

2 lectures

Readings: T: ch. 8

Group work: Padlet activity


Feb 13-17

Week 7:          The Renaissance Papacy

2  lectures

Readings:  T, ch. 7; article Christopher Frommel, “The Planning of Rome during the Renaissance” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 17 (1986): 39-65.

Group work: Debate on function of patronage                     

 Deadline: First short Paper due by Friday Feb 17


Feb 28-March 4

WEEK 8:       Violence and Disorder         

2 lectures

Readings: T ch. 11, and Article, Blastenrbrei, “Violence, arms and criminal justice in papal Rome, 1560-1600.” Renaissance Studies 20 (2006): 68-87.

Group Work: article analysis


March 7-11

Week 9:           The Renaissance Court

2 lectures

Readings: T ch.  9; Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier

Group work: role-playing

March 14-18

Week 10:         Medicine

2 lectures

Reading: Article, K. Park, “The Criminal and the Saintly Body: Autopsy and Dissection in Renaissance Italy,” Renaissance Quarterly 47 (1994): 1-33

Group work: article analysis


March 21-March 25

Week 11: Renaissance Thought on Human Nature

2 lectures

Reading: T: ch. 10 (neoplatonism), 13 (Machiavelli)

MARCH 28-April 1

WEEK 12:  Work on writing assignments

APRIL 3-April 7


FINAL WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS DUE (Research paper or 2nd short paper)

Other Course Information:


The University provides a variety of support services to help students manage their many demands. Reference librarians can provide invaluable research assistance. The Centre for Student Development (CSD) provides assistance with personal as well as academic

matters. MUSC B107 and http://csd.mcmaster.ca. The department of History also

provides a basic guide to research on its website.

Avenue to Learn

In this course we will be using Avenue to Learn. In addition to assigned articles, you will find lecture outlines and study sheets posted here. Specific documents and articles will also be posted on Avenues to Learn when indicated, including for the final research paper.


Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of this course, private information such as first and last names, user names for the McMaster e-mail accounts, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course. The available information is dependent on the technology used. Continuation in this course will be deemed consent to this disclosure. If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.