Medieval & Renaissance History

Monash has long been a pioneer in the study of medieval and Renaissance history in Australia. With our centre in Italy, we offer a unique opportunity to pair academic study with travel to Europe.  For information on all units available at Monash Prato please visit the Arts in Prato website.

Staff Research Areas

SOPHIS includes

with a number of staff working on Medieval and Renaissance History:

Peter Howard Medieval, Renaissance and Early Modern Europe
Carolyn James Medieval and renaissance history, cultural and social history
Clare Monagle Religion and society in the medieval and renaissance periods.
Constant Mews History of ideas (ancient, medieval to early modern)
Carol Williams Medieval and Renaissance music; medieval popular culture
Megan Cassidy-Welch Medieval history; cultural history; history and memory
Kathleen Neal Medieval and Renaissance history

Units Offered

We offer a range of units in Medieval and Renaissance history.  For a full list of units, see the handbook but you might want to consider:

ATS1316 Medieval Europe The long term changes in European society and civilisation from the time of Charlemagne in the late eighth century to the first signs of the breaking apart of the idea of a unified Christendom in the early fifteenth century. Themes include social structure, urbanisation, relationships between men and women, education, the crusades, the role of the church and the relationship between religious reform and heresy.
ATS1317 Renaissance Europe The social and cultural history of Western Europe from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century, especially the Italian Renaissance and the spread of its influence in northern Europe in the sixteenth century. Themes include humanism, art and patronage, gender, discovery of the New World, science, political and religious changes in the later Middle Ages, and the dissemination of the civilisation of the Renaissance in Western Europe.
ATS2579/ATS3579 Witches and depravity in the medieval and early modern world This unit will consider the cultural history of Western Europe from late antiquity through to the beginnings of modernity. We will focus particularly on the persecution of witches, accused sometimes of fornication with the devil or of infanticide and cannibalism, but will look also at other individuals and groups that have been considered sinful, unnatural, freakish or depraved. In so doing, we will explore the long story of the European outsider, and ask what these harsh designations and cruel treatments of people who were marginal or different might tell us about the history of European society as a whole.

ATS2573 – Relics and legends: Deciphering popular Christianity

This unit explores and critiques the history and ideas underpinning popular representations of Christianity (e.g. The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons). It aims to investigate the construction of religious cultures in their broader context: versions of the life of Jesus; saints’ lives (e.g. the role of Mary Magdalene); relics and legends (e.g. the Holy Grail); the role of societies (e.g. medieval Templars and the modern Opus Dei); the impact of new thinking on artists (da Vinci, Botticelli) and on Christian architectural and artistic representations; the popularity of popular Christianities in the new millennium.

Units Taught in Prato

A highlight of studying Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Monash is the opportunity to take an undergraduate unit at the Monash University Centre in Prato Italy.

For information on all units available at Monash Prato please visit the Arts in Prato website.

Our two medieval and Renaissance History units available in Prato (alternate years) are:

ATS3285 Dante’s medieval world: Politics, religion and the cityApplications open for 2013: Dante’s Medieval World: unit guide and application form
ATS2612/ATS3612 The Renaissance in Florence – Summer Semester 2012

Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

THE CENTRE FOR MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE STUDIES (CMRS) at Monash was established in October 2011 and launched on 1 March 2012. The Centre draws on the expertise of academic and research staff from the Department of History and from across the university and beyond. It aims to promote research and to provide specialist research training and support for honours and postgraduate students, and to coordinate first to third level units as a pathway for undergraduates. The Centre is located at Monash Clayton and the Monash University Prato Centre (the Bill Kent Library), and is the hub of the Prato Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

The Bill Kent Library & The Bill Kent Foundation

On 20 May 2010, as a major event of the first Open Day of the Monash University Centre in Prato, the Bill Kent Library was officially inaugurated by Alison Brown, Professor Emerita of Italian Renaissance History at Royal Holloway, the University of London. Also present was the Australian Ambassador, Amanda Vanstone. The occasion was both moving and symbolic. It was an opportunity to honour the Founding Director of Monash Prato, Professor Bill Kent, and also presaged the direction in which one of Monash’s teaching and research strengths will take in the future. Bill, due to illness, was not present, but his words, read on the occasion, frame the library’s significance:

Since I can’t be with you in person, I have sent as my emissary a picture (right) of the Ponte Vecchio painted in 1925 by the English artist, Graham Clilverd. It belonged to Nicolai and Ruth Rubinstein [the former a leading historian of Renaissance Florence, and the latter a foremost art historian], and anyone who visited them in their flat in Hampstead will remember it hanging there. The executors of the Rubinstein estate kindly gave the painting to me as a memento of Nicolai, my PhD supervisor and mentor in Italian Renaissance Studies, and I should like today to donate it to the Monash Centre in the same spirit, to hang in this library if that seems feasible. I hope you agree with me that this is an apt and genial idea. The nucleus of this library – I say ‘nucleus’ because of course it needs to, and I’m sure will, grow – is the collection of academic books both Rubinsteins kept at home. So the painting is returning home in a sense, through my mediation, to dwell in a library you have so thoughtfully named for me.

As a legendary teacher and scholar, Bill Kent established Monash University as a centre for Renaissance studies with an enviable international reputation. With the signing of memoranda of understanding with other leading centres of medieval and renaissance studies (the Universities of Edinburgh, Toronto, Durham, Warwick and Arizona), along with the State Archives of Prato, the newly established Prato Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies has, in the library, a focus and a space for the leading and innovatory research forwhich Monash is known.

With the aim of ensuring that the Bill Kent Library is a growing, developing entity, rather than an archive, its cataloguing will be undertaken through membership of the IRIS consortium of libaries (including Harvard University’s Villa i Tatti and Italy’s National Institute for Renaissance Studies) which will make the titles readily accessible to the international scholarly community, as well as the local Pratesi, and will enhance Monash’s reputation in a very visible way through the catalogue’s web-presence.

The Bill Kent Foundation

Bill’s colleagues and friends will be delighted to learn that a new body - The Bill Kent Foundation – has just been established by Monash University with a broad mandate to fund the development and maintenance of the library, including its ongoing membership of the IRIS consortium (the Arts Faculty is generously funding the first three years), as well as supporting other initiatives related to teaching and research in Bill Kent’s field e.g. conferences, scholarships, fellowships, annual lectures and workshops in both Melbourne and Prato etc. The university will be seeking contributions from Bill’s former students, friends, colleagues and scholars further afield to support this endeavour.  The Dean of Arts, Professor Rae Frances and Professor Bruce Scates have ‘kicked off’ the Foundation with a generous donation.

Alison Brown concluded her remarks when opening the library thus: “Bill also happens to be one of the best-read friends I have – I have always marvelled at how he has managed to fit into his life scrupulous reading in his own field and in related academic fields – as a writer, teacher and editor – together with an eclectic and broad-based reading of novels and literature. I am sure that he – like me and all good Renaissance humanists – believes in the immortality bestowed through letters and books. For this, as well as for so many other reasons, I can think of no better, more deserved, and more appropriate tribute to his life-long dedication to letters and to Monash University than to have this library named after him: The Bill Kent Library in the Monash University Centre in Prato”.

Peter Howard

Please visit the donation website to give make an online gift to the Bill Kent Foundation Fund.  You can also call Donor, Alumni & Community Relations Telephone: +61 3 9903 1608

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