I Tatti Studies in Italian Renaissance History

Forgotten Healers: Women and the Pursuit of Health in Late Renaissance Italy
Strocchia, Sharon T. 2019. Forgotten Healers: Women and the Pursuit of Health in Late Renaissance Italy. Harvard University Press.Abstract
In Renaissance Italy women played a more central role in providing health care than historians have thus far acknowledged. Women from all walks of life—from household caregivers and nurses to nuns working as apothecaries—drove the Italian medical economy. In convent pharmacies, pox hospitals, girls’ shelters, and homes, women were practitioners and purveyors of knowledge about health and healing, making significant contributions to early modern medicine.
A Convert’s Tale: Art, Crime, and Jewish Apostasy in Renaissance Italy
Herzig, Tamar. 2019. A Convert’s Tale: Art, Crime, and Jewish Apostasy in Renaissance Italy. Harvard University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
In 1491 the renowned goldsmith Salomone da Sesso converted to Catholicism. Born in the mid-fifteenth century to a Jewish family in Florence, Salomone later settled in Ferrara, where he was regarded as a virtuoso artist whose exquisite jewelry and lavishly engraved swords were prized by Italy’s ruling elite. But rumors circulated about Salomone’s behavior, scandalizing the Jewish community, who turned him over to the civil authorities. Charged with sodomy, Salomone was sentenced to die but agreed to renounce Judaism to save his life. He was baptized, taking the name Ercole “de’ Fedeli” (“One of the Faithful”). With the help of powerful patrons like Duchess Eleonora of Aragon and Duke Ercole d’Este, his namesake, Ercole lived as a practicing Catholic for three more decades. Drawing on newly discovered archival sources, Tamar Herzig traces the dramatic story of his life, half a century before ecclesiastical authorities made Jewish conversion a priority of the Catholic Church.
Giannozzo Manetti: The Life of a Florentine Humanist
Marsh, David. 2019. Giannozzo Manetti: The Life of a Florentine Humanist. Harvard University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A celebrated orator, historian, philosopher, and statesman, Giannozzo Manetti (1396–1459) was one of the most remarkable figures of the Italian Renaissance. The son of a wealthy Florentine merchant, he was active in the public life of the Florentine republic and embraced the new humanist scholarship of the Quattrocento.
Clerical Households in Late Medieval Italy
Cossar, Roisin. 2017. Clerical Households in Late Medieval Italy. Harvard University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Roisin Cossar brings a new perspective to the history of the Christian church in fourteenth century Italy by examining how clerics managed efforts to reform their domestic lives in the decades after the arrival of the Black Death.

Priests at the end of the Middle Ages resembled their lay contemporaries as they entered into domestic relationships with women, fathered children, and took responsibility for managing households, or familiae. Cossar limns a complex portrait of daily life in the medieval clerical familia that traces the phases of its development. Many priests began their vocation as apprentices in the households of older clerics. In middle age, priests fully embraced the traditional role of paterfamilias—patriarchs with authority over their households, including servants and, especially in Venice, slaves. As fathers they endeavored to establish their illegitimate sons in a clerical family trade. They also used their legal knowledge to protect their female companions and children against a church that frowned on such domestic arrangements and actively sought to stamp them out.

Clerical Households in Late Medieval Italy refutes the longstanding charge that the late medieval clergy were corrupt, living licentious lives that failed to uphold priestly obligations. In fashioning a domestic culture that responded flexibly to their own needs, priests tempered the often unrealistic expectations of their superiors. Their response to the rigid demands of church reform allowed the church to maintain itself during a period of crisis and transition in European history.

The Avignon Papacy Contested: An Intellectual History from Dante to Catherine of Siena
Falkeid, Unn. 2017. The Avignon Papacy Contested: An Intellectual History from Dante to Catherine of Siena. Harvard University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The Avignon papacy (1309–1377) represented the zenith of papal power in Europe. The Roman curia’s move to southern France enlarged its bureaucracy, centralized its authority, and initiated closer contact with secular institutions. The pope’s presence also attracted leading minds to Avignon, transforming a modest city into a cosmopolitan center of learning. But a crisis of legitimacy was brewing among leading thinkers of the day. The Avignon Papacy Contested considers the work of six fourteenth-century writers who waged literary war against the Catholic Church’s increasing claims of supremacy over secular rulers—a conflict that engaged contemporary critics from every corner of Europe.
Success and Suppression: Arabic Sciences and Philosophy in the Renaissance
Hasse, Dag Nikolaus. 2016. Success and Suppression: Arabic Sciences and Philosophy in the Renaissance. Harvard University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Renaissance marked a turning point in Europe’s relationship to Arabic thought. On the one hand, Dag Nikolaus Hasse argues, it was the period in which important Arabic traditions reached the peak of their influence in Europe. On the other hand, it is the time when the West began to forget, and even actively suppress, its debt to Arabic culture. Success and Suppressiontraces the complex story of Arabic influence on Renaissance thought.

It is often assumed that the Renaissance had little interest in Arabic sciences and philosophy, because humanist polemics from the period attacked Arabic learning and championed Greek civilization. Yet Hasse shows that Renaissance denials of Arabic influence emerged not because scholars of the time rejected that intellectual tradition altogether but because a small group of anti-Arab hard-liners strove to suppress its powerful and persuasive influence. The period witnessed a boom in new translations and multivolume editions of Arabic authors, and European philosophers and scientists incorporated—and often celebrated—Arabic thought in their work, especially in medicine, philosophy, and astrology. But the famous Arabic authorities were a prominent obstacle to the Renaissance project of renewing European academic culture through Greece and Rome, and radical reformers accused Arabic science of linguistic corruption, plagiarism, or irreligion. Hasse shows how a mixture of ideological and scientific motives led to the decline of some Arabic traditions in important areas of European culture, while others continued to flourish.

Daughters of Alchemy. Women and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy
Ray, Meredith K. 2015. Daughters of Alchemy. Women and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy. Harvard University Press, 280. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The era of the Scientific Revolution has long been epitomized by Galileo. Yet many women were at its vanguard, deeply invested in empirical culture. They experimented with medicine and practical alchemy at home, at court, and through collaborative networks of practitioners. In academies, salons, and correspondence, they debated cosmological discoveries; in their literary production, they used their knowledge of natural philosophy to argue for their intellectual equality to men.

Meredith Ray restores the work of these women to our understanding of early modern scientific culture. Her study begins with Caterina Sforza’s alchemical recipes; examines the sixteenth-century vogue for “books of secrets”; and looks at narratives of science in works by Moderata Fonte and Lucrezia Marinella. It concludes with Camilla Erculiani’s letters on natural philosophy and, finally, Margherita Sarrocchi’s defense of Galileo’s “Medicean” stars.

Combining literary and cultural analysis, Daughters of Alchemy contributes to the emerging scholarship on the variegated nature of scientific practice in the early modern era. Drawing on a range of under-studied material including new analyses of the Sarrocchi–Galileo correspondence and a previously unavailable manuscript of Sforza’s Experimenti, Ray’s book rethinks early modern science, properly reintroducing the integral and essential work of women.

Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance
Palmer, Ada. 2014. Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance. Harvard University Press, 416. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This volume explores scholars’ use of Lucretius’ Epicurean didactic poem De Rerum Natura from its rediscovery in 1417 to 1600, focusing on the challenges its atomistic physics posed to Christian patterns of thought. In a period when atheism was often considered a sign of madness, the sudden availability of a sophisticated system that explained natural phenomena in non-theistic ways, and that argued powerfully against the immortality of the soul, the afterlife, and a creator God, threatened to supply the one weapon unbelief had lacked in the Middle Ages: good answers. At the same time, humanist scholars who idealized ancient Rome were eager to study a poem whose language and structure so often anticipated their beloved Aeneid. This book uncovers humanist methods for reconciling Christian and pagan philosophy, and shows how atomism and ideas of emergent order and natural selection, so critical to our current thinking, became situated in Europe’s intellectual landscape at the beginning of the scientific transformations of the seventeenth century. It employs a new quantitative method for analyzing marginalia in manuscripts and printed books, whose results expose how changes in scholarly reading practices over the course of the sixteenth century, fostered by the growth of printing, controlled the circulation of texts and gradually expanded Europe’s receptivity to radical science, setting the stage for the scientific revolution.

Pages