The Other Renaissance: From Copernicus to Shakespeare; How the Renaissance in Northern Europe Transformed the World

Pegasus. May 2023. 336p. ISBN 9781639363933. $29.95. HIST
Strathern (Empire: A New History of the World) asserts that while the traditionally recognized Italian Renaissance was going on, a second, separate Renaissance was also occurring in northern Europe from the mid-14th century to end of the 17th century. The author cites groundbreaking innovations in the fields of medicine, religion, and astronomy, to name a few. Artists such as Albrecht Dürer and Pieter Bruegel the Elder employed a new realism in their paintings and engravings, while a progressive humanism emerged in the writings of Erasmus and Rabelais. Strathern devotes individual chapters to the lives and accomplishments of these luminaries, and there is no denying the influence of Gutenberg, Copernicus, and Martin Luther on the course of civilization. The premise of a separate Renaissance, however, falters when one takes into account the connections many of these individuals had to the Italian Renaissance through study, travel, or mentors. Similarly disappointing is the inclusion of only two women: France’s Catherine de’ Medici and England’s Elizabeth I. In the case of Elizabeth I, the book inexplicably reduces the significance of her reign to the inspiration it brought Shakespeare.
VERDICT An informative but disappointing look at a pivotal era.
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