Birth of Humanist Historiography

Leonardo Bruni. History of the Florentine people. The University of Sydney.


This entry focuses on a particularly significant moment in the history of historical writing in Europe. It posits that Renaissance humanism—an intellectual movement whose development can plausibly be located in early fifteenth-century Italy—gave birth to radically new ways of conceptualizing and representing the past. To some extent the changes were the result of a deeper engagement with the ancient Greek and Roman historians that the humanists took as their models. But the renewed interest in the classics was itself often embraced as a means of rising to the challenges posed by the need to interpret a rapidly changing political landscape. By way of illustration, this entry zeroes in on the work that can be seen as the foundation stone of humanist historiography: Leonardo Bruni’s History of the Florentine People. Bruni’s History is presented as the first stage in a general renewal of historical writing, one that moves outwards from Renaissance Florence to pervade Italy and eventually Europe as a whole.