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Reviewed by:
  • Renaissance Education between Religion and Politics
  • Paul V. Murphy
Renaissance Education between Religion and Politics. By Paul F. Grendler. [Variorum Collected Studies Series, no. 845.] (Burlington, Vermont:Ashgate Publishing Company. 2006. Pp. x, 328. $114.95.)

Anyone who in recent years has studied the history of education in the Renaissance is aware of the enormous contribution of Paul F. Grendler to that field of study. A primary theme of his research has been the intersection of scholarship, politics, and religion in education and culture. This volume gathers eleven of his articles and book chapters that appeared between 1991 and 2004, two of them in English translation for the first time. They address issues that have been emblematic of Grendler's work for more than forty years.

In "The Universities of the Renaissance and the Reformation," Grendler directly rejects the view that European universities were in decline in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance and that they resisted new methods and new research. He shows that universities witnessed tremendous numerical growth, engaged in reform of their disciplines, and continued to influence European culture. For example, the universities of Germany, which, unlike those in Italy, included many theologians, should be seen as important contributors to the success of the Reformation which in its early years Grendler characterizes as a "young faculty uprising" (p. 18). Other articles examine university studies in Italy, Jesuit efforts to establish universities, the impact of schooling on the career of the painter Piero della Francesca, and the humorous yet nevertheless instructive tale of how Erasmus of Rotterdam, one so often at odds with theology professors, obtained a doctorate in theology in a matter of fifteen days from the University of Turin.

The relationship of Renaissance humanism to Catholic Reform in Italy has also featured prominently in Grendler's work. In "Man is almost a God: Fra Battista Carioni between Renaissance and Catholic Reformation" he reveals Carioni as one who expressed a theology of human freedom that approximated the views of Pico and acted as a mentor to Gaetano da Thiene, founder of the Theatines, and Antonio Maria Zaccaria, founder of the Barnabites, two representative religious orders of the Catholic Reformation. Grendler also shows the links between the Renaissance and Catholic Reformation in the Piarist schools in sixteenth-century Italy and in the relationship of humanist scholarship and ecclesiastical censorship in the career of Paolo Manuzio. By [End Page 361] highlighting these links Grendler rejects the interpretation of Italian religious history espoused by Delio Cantimori and others that the Italian heretics of the sixteenth century were the true heirs to Renaissance humanism.

Grendler's approach to current historiographical debates is seen in "Renaissance Humanism,Schools,and Universities,"where he reviews the state of research on schooling in Renaissance Europe. He opens the article with a reassertion of the term Renaissance as a necessary historiographical concept. He opposes the increasingly common "early modern" for what he terms chronological imprecision and for carrying "late-twentieth century ideological baggage that gets in the way of objective research" (p. 1). Grendler expresses the same concerns about the use of the term when applied to religion in the sixteenth century,"Catholicism in Early Modern Europe,"for example. He notes the laudable desire of scholars to avoid the sectarian character of earlier interpretations of the Protestant and Catholic Reformation but holds that the result is to "de-emphasize religious themes in favor of social history and to lose chronological precision" (p. 10).

This volume is valuable for making readily available a diverse group of articles by a prolific scholar and historian. While certainly of use to both undergraduate and graduate students, the historiographical observations included in a number of the essays will encourage further debate among professional scholars as well. [End Page 362]

Paul V. Murphy
John Carroll University


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