The Wisdom of the Renaissance

Prometheus. Jul. 2019. 400p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781633885189. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781633885196. LIT
Kellogg (The Greek Search for Wisdom; The Roman Search for Wisdom; The Wisdom of the Middle Ages) continues his survey of the intellectual history of the West, beginning with an overview of European history from the 14th to early 17th century. He then examines ten authors from that period who helped define the modern understanding of what it means to be fully human: Petrarch, Erasmus, Luther, Machiavelli, Thomas More, Castiglione, Rabelais, Montaigne, Cervantes, and Shakespeare. Each chapter opens with a biographical sketch, followed by a discussion of key writings. For Machiavelli, Kellogg explores The Prince and the Discourses on Livy. For More, the focus is on Utopia. The book concludes with a chronology and bibliography. One virtue of this volume is its placing of the various writings in historical context. For example, Machiavelli was responding to the collapse of the Florentine Republic and Italy’s lack of unity, while More reacted to the increasing disparity between wealth and poverty and crime in England caused by land enclosure. Sections provide more summary than analysis but serve as ideal introductions.
VERDICT Montaigne wrote that reading is “the best provision I have found for this human journey.” Kellogg’s book is well worth taking along.
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