"Io ho deliberato di scrivere": The Personalization of Humanistic Historiography during the Italian Wars (1494-1559)

Doctoral Dissertation


At the start of the Italian Renaissance in the early 1400s, a new type of history known as humanistic historiography developed. These represented a significant departure from medieval chronicles and became the dominant form of historiography in the Italian peninsula. In 1494, however, the Renaissance world was shattered by the start of the Italian Wars. These lasted until 1559 and brought profound and often violent change to the Italian peninsula that impacted the politics, society, and culture. Many scholars have viewed them as the end of the Renaissance and of humanistic historiography. Histories written in the early parts of the 1500s are seen as non-humanistic in one way or another, either late representations of medieval historiography, lazy narratives by non-historians, or early manifestations of modern historiography.

My argument is that humanistic historiography did not die out in the Italian Wars, nor was it superseded by a return to the medieval past or a swift jump to modern historical methods. Authors of War-era histories were forced to confront new events, circumstances that had no recent or classical precedent and adapted the humanistic history to their new context by inserting themselves and their personal views into their histories. Using historiographical works by Pietro Bembo, Paolo Giovio, and Francesco Guicciardini, I argue that the humanistic history survived the Italian Wars by becoming more intensely personal.

These authors used their own experience in and knowledge of the Wars to modify the traditional form of humanistic history to something that could narrate and explain the traumatic events between 1494 and 1559. Interweaving all three authors across four chapters, I analyze the formal characteristics that make these war-era histories humanistic, the increasingly personal judgments each offers on the states and rulers engaged in the Italian Wars, the presence and effects of those Wars on the authors, and their own personal experience in the Italian Wars that is reflected in their histories. In my final chapter, I look at the post-War work of Angelo di Costanzo to demonstrate that these personalization techniques were also put to use by post-War historians to write humanistic histories of their own.


Attribute NameValues
Author Courtney Smotherman
Contributor Margaret Meserve, Research Director
Contributor Abigail Brundin, Committee Member
Contributor Theodore J. Cachey, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Literature
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2017-06-06

Submission Date 2017-06-23
  • Italian Renaissance

  • Historiography

  • Humanism

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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