The World of Renaissance Italy
A Daily Life Encyclopedia
by Joseph P. Byrne
June 2017, 797pp, 7x10
2 volumes, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-2959-8
$220, £170, 192€, A302
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-2960-4
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

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 lives Italians led on a daily basis.

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
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.


2017 Best Reference Title—Library Journal, February 28, 2018


"These volumes are so comprehensive that if an area seems absent from the index, thorough searching will likely uncover it. This accessible compilation of material offers incredible riches for advanced high school students, nonspecialist undergraduates, and general readers."—Library Journal, Starred Review, October 1, 2017

"With more than 700 pages of encyclopedia entries, as opposed to scholarly articles, this set is both comprehensive and accessible to readers. This series is recommended for public and academic libraries with patrons interested in culture and/or history."—Booklist, December 1, 2017

"This unique reference work serves it purpose to introduce its themes to beginning students and general readers, as well as provide a starting point for research by undergraduates majoring in Italian history, fine arts, literature, and cultural studies. Summing Up: Recommended. High school through undergraduate students; general readers."—Choice, January 1, 2018

"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)

Daily Life

What was life really like for ordinary people in other cultures throughout history? How did they raise their children? What did they do for fun? From sexual mores in ancient Egypt to resistance music in modern Latin America, and from the fashion sense of the Mongols to the importance of film in modern India, the world comes alive in the indispensable hands-on volumes of this award-winning series. A truly interdisciplinary resource, the Daily Life series covers arts; religion; food; literature; language; romance; rites of passage and coming of age; marriage customs; social and government structure; sickness and cures; warfare; sports and games; holidays; festivals; and more. Supported by the most current research, these authoritative volumes provide an in-depth exploration of daily life throughout history.

Each volume provides:
• An exploration of complex eras in history on a level accessible to students and general readers
• Authoritative coverage stemming from the most current scholarship and recent discoveries
• A focus on social rather than political history in key curricular areas, providing an in-depth understanding of the nuts and bolts of daily life
• Interactive, exciting details such as recipes, sheet music, rules for games, song lyrics, and more
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