At first glance, the Renaissance and the Reformation--two movements (one cultural, one religious) that defined Europe from 1400 to 1600--may appear to be polar opposites. The Renaissance found scholars and artists celebrating the beauty and splendor of the material world, while the Reformation saw Protestant and Catholic religious leaders and their followers focusing on eternal salvation. However, there were actually striking similarities between these two worlds. For instance, while both Renaissance artists and Reformation pastors originally desired a return to a "golden age" of the past, they both ended up creating something very new instead.
In The Renaissance and Reformation, Merry Wiesner-Hanks allows the historical participants to tell their own stories. She presents a mix of visual sources and written documents not only from learned scholars, trained artists, university-educated religious reformers, and powerful political leaders--but also from more ordinary men and women. Leonardo da Vinci considers the merits of painting versus poetry in his notebook, while the Italian diplomat Baldassar Castiglione recommends the pastime of music-making to gentlemen in his book The Courtier. A group of small-time investors signs a contract for a trading venture from Genoa to Corsica and Sardinia, and a wealthy Florentine widow writes a letter to her son, weighing his ability to start a new business. A picture essay uses individual and family portraits to discuss ideas about personality, temperament, and "genius"; social differences in marital patterns; and changes in family relationships. Wiesner-Hanks places events in Europe in a global context, allowing readers to examine the ways in which they were related to the voyages of exploration.
Merry Wiesner-Hanks is Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is the editor of the Sixteenth Century Journal and the Journal of Global History, the author or editor of twenty books, including Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe (2008) and Early Modern Europe 1450-1789 (2006).