The World of Renaissance Italy

A Daily Life Encyclopedia

by Joseph P. Byrne


To fully appreciate the Italian Renaissance era, it is necessary to examine not only the great figures, artistic monuments, and events of this time but also the bulk of the population and the lives they led on a daily basis.

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Cover image for The World of Renaissance Italy

June 2017


Pages 797
Volumes 2
Size 7x10
Topics World History/Culture
  Geography and World Cultures/Countries and Regions

Students of the Italian Renaissance who wish to go beyond the standard names and subjects will find in this text abundant information on the lives, customs, beliefs, and practices of those who lived during this exciting time period.

The World of Renaissance Italy: A Daily Life Encyclopedia engages all of the Italian peninsula from the Black Death (1347–1352) to 1600. Unlike other encyclopedic works about the Renaissance era, this book deals exclusively with Italy, revealing the ways common Italian people lived and experienced the events and technological developments that marked the Renaissance era. The coverage specifically spotlights marginal or traditionally marginalized groups, including women, homosexuals, Jews, the elderly, and foreign communities in Italian cities.

The entries in this two-volume set are organized into 10 sections of 25 alphabetically listed entries each. Among the broad sections are art, fashion, family and gender, food and drink, housing and community, politics, recreation and social customs, and war. The "See Also" sources for each article are listed by section for easy reference, a feature that students and researchers will greatly appreciate. The extensive collection of contemporary documents include selections from a diary, letters, a travel journal, a merchant's inventory, Inquisition testimony, a metallurgical handbook, and text by an artist that describes what the author feels constitutes great work. Each of the primary source documents accompanies a specific article and provides an added dimension and degree of insight to the material.


  • Synthesizes the latest research and publication in the Italian Renaissance era by the top scholars in their respective historical fields
  • Covers a range of types of people and issues rarely covered in other books on the Italian Renaissance and supplies detailed coverage that adds a social dimension to traditional topics such as art, religion, and war
  • Authored by a prolific and highly regarded author of history texts, Joseph P. Byrne, PhD, who is expert in the Italian Renaissance
  • Appropriate for advanced high school and undergraduate college students as well as general readers interested in the Renaissance period in Italy
Series Description

Daily Life Encyclopedias

What was life really like for ordinary people in different cultures throughout history? What did they eat, wear, believe, and think? How did they interact with government? What did they value? The Daily Life Encyclopedias illuminate the lives of average people of a particular time and place through the examination of social, cultural, and material history. Supported by the most current research, these multivolume sets explore social history topics—family life, political life, religious life, economic life, recreation, and social customs—and use these topics to investigate aspects of a society's emotional life, interactions, intimate relationships, opinions and beliefs, and connections between the individual and the greater world.
Author Info

Joseph P. Byrne, PhD, is professor of honors humanities at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. His doctoral degree is in history, and his dissertation for Indiana University, Bloomington, studied the Italian merchant Francesco Datini (d.1410). Byrne is author of The Black Death, part of the Greenwood Guides to Historic Events of the Medieval World series; Greenwood's Daily Life during the Black Death; The Encyclopedia of the Black Death; and Health and Wellness in the Renaissance and Enlightenment. He also edited Encyclopedia of Pestilence, Pandemics, and Plagues and Greenwood's recent series Health and Wellness in Daily Life and routinely reviews scholarly works on early modern Italian cultural history for leading journals.



"This truly amazing work, full of fascinating facts and insightful observations on a wide range of topics, sheds much valuable light on the many and diverse aspects of daily life that people, both ordinary and elite, experienced in Renaissance Italy. We learn, for example, about cloth-making and what the ordinary folks wore on a daily basis, what they ate and drank, and how they managed their personal hygiene; we gain an appreciation of the role of art, music, and literature in society; we see how banks and trade functioned, as well as the vagaries of agricultural production and the sheep and wool industry; we gain insights into social and family structures, housing, marriages and dowries, birth and funereal rituals, wills and inheritances, childhood education, health concerns and medical practices, and many other topics. The emphasis is on daily life, and thus we find many important entries on political and religious institutions, the occupations of and recreational outlets for the populace, the devastation wrought by warfare and disease, scientific thought and technological advances, and a host of other engaging subjects. The beauty of these volumes lies in their comprehensive nature and detailed expositions. Indeed, we have here a wealth of information that shines a bright light on the historical period in question. The many and diverse topics are presented in an eminently readable style and are accompanied by numerous pertinent illustrations, and concise and helpful bibliographical indications conclude each entry. Moreover, the second volume contains a valuable set of readings from primary sources that will make individual entries come to life, as well as a listing of popes and major rulers and an extensive general bibliography. The World of Renaissance Italy is a treasure trove that provides answers for virtually all questions anyone might ever have about life on the Italian peninsula from the mid-fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries."—Christopher Kleinhenz, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Editor, Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia, 2 vols. (New York: Routledge, 2004)

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