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HISTORY 3H03 Italian Renaissance:1300-1600

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Spring

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Megan Armstrong

Email: marmstr@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 626

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24141


Office Hours: M 2:30-3:30pm

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. By the end of this course students will have a richer understanding of this history and will have developed their analytical and communication skills.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


John M. Najemy, Italy in the Age of the Renaissance. Oxford, 2009.


All other assigned readings will be posted on AVL

Method of Assessment:

Grade Breakdown


Option 1

5 quizzes                                             20

2 short papers                                      30

Tutorial                                                20

Final Exam                                          30%


Option 2

weekly quizzes                                   20%

Tutorial participation                           20%

Research Paper            (1500 wds)      30%

Final Exam                                          30%

The final exam will be organized by the registrar and will take two hours. All written work will be submitted online. This is an online course.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:






 late papers will be penalized 3% a day including weekends. Students will give their essays to their tutorial assistant or to the instructor  by the deadlines indicated. Essays may not be submitted by email or fax but submitted through the course portal. 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. Exensions will be given in accordance with the guidelines of the university.


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


Week 1 (Jan 4) Introduction: What was the Renaissance?

1 lecture

Readings: T, Introduction



Week 2 (Jan 8-14):  Petrarch and Early Humanism

Readings: Textbook: ch. 3

3 lectures



Week 3 (Jan15-21):     The Republic of Florence and Civic Humanism

Readings: Textbook: 9

3 lectures

Group Assignment: Roles.  Sharon T. Strocchia, “Remember the Family: Women, Kin, and Commemorative Masses in Renaissance Florence,” Renaissance Quarterly (1989)



Week 4 (Jan 22-28):    Humanism and Education

2 lectures

Readings: T 2; Primary source analysis: Letters, Isotta Nogarola




Week 5 (Jan 29-Feb 4):           Art and Architecture

2 lectures

Readings: T 11

Group Assignment: paintings



Week 6 (Feb 5-11):     The Renaissance in Venice

2 lectures

Readings: T: 8

Group work: padlet activity



Week 7 (Feb 12-18):   The Renaissance Papacy

2  lectures

Readings:  T 3; article Christopher Frommel, “The Planning of Rome during the Renaissance” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 17 (1986): 39-65.

Group work: Debate



WEEK 8 (Feb 19-25): READING WEEK



WEEK 9 (feb 26-Mar 4):        Violence and Disorder

2 lectures

Readings: T 9;  Tutorial Article, F. Nevola, “Surveillance and Control of the Street in Renaissance Italy,” I Tatti Studies in the Renaissance, 16 ( 2013): 85-106.

Group Assignment: roles



Week 10 (Mar 5-11):  The Renaissance Court

2 lectures

Readings: T 8




Week 11 (March 12-18):         Science and Medicine

2 lectures

Readings: T5;  Article, K. Park, “The Criminal and the Saintly Body: Autopsy and Dissection in Renaissance Italy,” Renaissance Quarterly 47 (1994): 1-33

Group assignment: roles




Week 12 (March 19-25): Renaissance Thought on Human Nature

2 lectures

Readings: T: 10 (neoplatonism), 13 (Machiavelli)

Cary Nederman, “Amazing Grace: Fortune, God, and Free Will in Machiavelli’s Thought” in The History of Ideas 60 (1999): 617-638.

Group Assignment: roles




Week 13: Wrap Up

Other Course Information:

Respectful Behaviour

The course is a site of learning. For this reason, disruptive and disrespectful

behaviour online, whether directed at a student, tutorial assistant or the instructor will not be tolerated.


Modifications to Course Outline

The instructor and university reserve the right to modify elements of the course during

the term. The university may change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in

extreme circumstances. If either type of modification becomes necessary, reasonable

notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the

opportunity to comment on changes. It is the responsibility of the student to check.