The Uniqueness of Florence’s Renaissance Experience
By Gene Brucker
Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Proceedings of the Southeastern Institute of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Summer 1979, edited by G.M. Masters (Chapel Hill, 1984)
Introduction: In his classic work The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, Jacob Burckhardt wrote: “The most elevated political thought and the most varied forms of human development are found united in the history of Florence, which…deserves the name of the first modern state in the world.” Burckhardt’s view of Florence as the premier city of the Italian Renaissance (to quote him again, “the most important workshop of the Italian, and indeed of the modern European spirit,” was not an original perception.
That claim had first been made by the Florentines themselves, who extolled the merits of their city, comparing it with Athens, with Rome, with Jerusalem. Florentines never tired of emphasizing the achievements of their fellow-citizens, beginning with Dante and Giotto in the fourteenth century and concluding with such illustrious names as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Guicciardini, in the sixteenth.