For nineteenth-century Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt, the Italian Renaissance was nothing less than the beginning of the modern world - a world in which flourishing individualism and the competition for fame radically transformed science, the arts, and politics. In this landmark work he depicts the Italian city-states of Florence, Venice and Rome as providing the seeds of a new form of society, and traces the rise of the creative individual, from Dante to Michelangelo. A fascinating description of an era of cultural transition, this nineteenth-century masterpiece was to become the most influential interpretation of the Italian Renaissance, and anticipated ideas such as Nietzsche's concept of the 'Ubermensch' in its portrayal of an age of genius.
Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897) intended to join the Church, but lost his faith while studying theology. Thereafter he studied history at the University of Basel, gaining his doctorate in 1843 and becoming a lecturer. He moved to the Zurich Polytechnic as Professor of Architecture and History in 1855, which is where he wrote The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. In 1858 he returned to Basel, where he lived for his work as a teacher at the University. Peter Burke is Reader in Cultural History, University of Cambridge, and Fellow of Emmanuel College. He has published widely on the Renaissance and cultural history. Peter Murray was Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at the University of London. He taught at the Courtauld Institute from 1949-1967 and was subsequently chair of Art History at Birkbeck College. He published widely on the architecture of the Renaissance. He died in 1992.