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The Italian Renaissance in the Mediterranean, or, Between East and West. A Review Article


This essay considers trends in recent scholarship on the medieval and early modern Mediterranean, assessing how individual monographs and essays relate to the field as a whole. Recent works with an Italian focus have engaged with the major themes of Mediterranean encounter: merchant culture and commercial exchange, crusade, pilgrimage, and shared sacred geographies. This tendency is particularly prominent in the “high culture” fields — art and architectural history, literary history, the intellectual culture of humanism, political and diplomatic endeavors — that have traditionally been framed in the context of the Italian Renaissance. The idea emerging from the integration of the high culture of the Italian Renaissance into a larger history of cultural exchange is that the Renaissance owed a great deal to the exchanges between East and West. Furthermore, the impact of this exchange cannot simply be measured by finding the products and ideas that the West took from the East, or vice versa, but is found in the deliberate and creative assimilation of diverse traditions that led to the cultural dynamism of late medieval and early modern Italy.

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