Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE The Renaissance and Reformation

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION Humanism will survey the origins and spread of Humanism and its impact on Europe, with particular reference to Italy, the Low Countries, France, Germany, the Iberian Peninsula, and England. It will discuss such themes as: the notarial and legal professions in Italy; Italian and ‘northern’ humanism; monasteries and the universities; civic and republican liberty; philology, theology, and political thought; the visual arts; magic and science; the historical method and writing; the vernacular languages and literary genres; religious reform movements; and social and political reform.

Religious Change and Nonconformity in Early Modern Europe is concerned with the major religious changes which occurred in continental Europe between the early fifteenth and the early seventeenth centuries. It will deal with changes both within and outside the Roman Catholic Church. These will include the official, mainstream movements both outside and within the Roman Church: the Reformation of the princes and city magistrates: the Reformation inspired by Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin; and the Counter-Reformation enforced by the Pope, the bishops, and the Council of Trent. But they will also comprise a number of popular or ‘fringe’ movements, from the Taborites to the Anabaptists and the German peasant risings, which had little to do with changes inspired from above. The study-unit will concentrate on the relationship between social and political conditions and religious movements. It will be taught chiefly by lectures, with an occasional seminar.

The Catholic Reformation offers students the opportunity to study in detail one of the most significant movements in Early Modern times - the revitalization of Roman Catholicism, especially in the period following the opening of the Council of Trent (1545). It is subdivided into three major themes, covering respectively (i) the period from the late fifteenth century to the appearance on the scene of Martin Luther, during which reform efforts within the Catholic Church either failed or were unavoidably delayed; (ii) the siege mentality behind the Catholic Church's reactionary movement to counter the Protestant ‘contagion’, employing, in the process, repressive methods like the Inquisition, the Index of prohibited books, etc.; and (iii) the confident implementation of the massive programme of Tridentine reform, particularly in relation to the conduct of the clergy, ecclesiastical discipline, religious education, and worldwide missionary activity.

At this stage, the Catholic reform movement was greatly stimulated by the reformation of the older religious orders and the established of new ones (such as the Jesuits). As it is impossible to cover all the countries of the Catholic world in equal detail, the study-unit will focus on particular problems, looking to specific countries for example to illustrate particular points. The study-unit ends with a seminar on the Catholic Reformation in the cultural and political history of Early Modern Europe.


To introduce the students to the major political, social, economic, and cultural developments in Europe during the Renaissance first in Italy and then beyond the Alps and during the turbulent years of the Reformations.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding

Upon successful completion of this study unit, students will have acquired and demonstrated an understanding of the structure of European society during the Renaissance and Reformation period as it evolved between c.1400 and c.1600.

2. Skills

Students would have learned how to interpret and discuss critically documents from the Renaissance and Reformation period and how to place them in their proper historical context. They would also have been able to appreciate the interrelatedness between these two major phenomena and later developments like the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the outbreak of the French revolution of 1789.

Reading List

Humanism – Suggested Reading
• Jakob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy: An Essay. (Any edition).
• W.K. Ferguson, The Renaissance in Historical Thought: Five Centuries of Interpretation, (Boston, 1948).
• Denys Hay, The Italian Renaissance in its Historical Background, (Cambridge, 2nd edition, 1977).
• Erasmus, Praise of Folly, (Any edition).
• N. Machiavelli, The Prince, (Any edition).
• C. G. Nauert, Jr., Humanism and the Culture of Renaissance Europe, (Cambridge, 1995).

Religious Change and Nonconformity in Early Modern Europe – Text
• Culture and Belief in Europe 1450-1600: An Anthology of Sources, ed. David Englander et al (Oxford, 1990)

The Catholic Reformation – Set Text
• Culture and Belief in Europe 1450-1600: An Anthology of Sources, ed. D. Englander et al, (Oxford, Blackwell, 1990).


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Examination (2 Hours) Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Victor Mallia Milanes

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
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Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.