THE EARLY RENAISSANCE
Return to Classical Roots
TEACHING STRATEGIES AND SUGGESTIONS
The teacher can begin the section on the Early Renaissance with a Standard Lecture using either the Diffusion or the
Pattern of Change approach to show the connections and discontinuities between this first modern period and the
Middle Ages. At the same time, a general survey can be made between these two cultural periods, contrasting the
religious, corporate-minded Middle Ages with the secular, individualistic Renaissance. Because the nature of the
Renaissance is such a hotly debated topic, the instructor may want to help students sort through the rival
interpretations summarized in the textbook; these interpretations can also be used as the basis for a more general
discussion on the nature of historical writing, such as what motivates historians and why they do not always agree.
The teacher will be able to use fifteenth-century Italy as a Case Study to show the interrelationship of politics,
diplomacy, economics and war—a recurring theme in history. The Reflections/Connections model will work well in
illustrating that in Early Renaissance Florence the brilliant developments in the arts were directly tied to political
changes, economic prosperity, and ambitious families.
Various paths may be followed in the lectures on Early Renaissance intellectual and artistic developments. The
Pattern of Change model can be applied to the arts and ideas by tracing their evolution over the century. Innovations
in education can be contrasted with medieval education, using the Comparison/Contrast approach. The arts can be
illustrated with visual aids—slides, films, or both—and should probably be presented as an evolution in techniques,
local traditions, and generational differences while underscoring the revival of Greco-Roman Classicism. The
instructor might want to use the “Great Individual” argument in discussing the lives and contributions of such key
figures as Donatello, Brunelleschi, or Leonardo da Vinci. A final lecture can deal with two topics: first, using a
Spirit of the Age approach, the underlying unity of the cultural developments in the Early Renaissance; and, second,
using a Diffusion approach, the impact that this age had on subsequent periods, including our own.