Renaissance: The Transformation of the West

Course No. 3917
Professor Jennifer McNabb, Ph.D.
Western Illinois University
Share This Course
4 out of 5
43 Reviews
67% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 3917
Streaming Included Free

What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Discover the roots of social, cultural, and political transformations in the development of humanism.
  • numbers Place the familiar story of the Italian Renaissance in the context of Europe's other Renaissance movements.
  • numbers Experience what everyday life was like for men and women from all levels of Renaissance society.
  • numbers Examine Renaissance philosophies at work in other historical movements, including the Reformation.
  • numbers Learn how the Renaissance paved the way for the political conflicts of the early modern era.

Course Overview

There’s the Renaissance we all know about: the cultural flourishing that produced iconic works of art, sculpture, and architecture. But underneath all the paint and marble is another side of the Renaissance with which we’re much less familiar.

Born from the devastation of the Black Death, the European Renaissance is undoubtedly one of the greatest periods of civilizational achievement in human history. Transformations that began with the economic explosion of the Italian city-states in the 14th century and lasted through the dawn of the early modern world in the 17th century are ones we still feel today.

While it’s easy to get caught up—and, rightfully so—in the art and architecture of the Renaissance, you cannot have a deep and genuine understanding of just how important these centuries were without digging beneath the surface, without investigating the period in terms of its politics, its spirituality, its philosophies, its economics, and its societies. It is just as vital to appreciate events and developments—such as the transition from feudal kingdoms to nation-states, the flourishing of international trade and exploration, epic wars and rebellions, revolutions of faith, and the rise (and fall) of different social status groups—as it is to understand the value of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling or Leonardo’s Mona Lisa.

Only by considering the European Renaissance from all sides, by disturbing traditional understandings, tipping sacred cows, and busting prevalent myths, can you truly grasp just how the Renaissance revolutionized the Western world.

In the epic 48-lecture course, Renaissance: The Transformation of the West, historian and award-winning professor Jennifer McNabb of Western Illinois University delivers a holistic, comprehensive view of the Renaissance that will show just how impressive and truly influential it was. Guiding you through centuries of exhilarating change in Europe with the knowledge, insights, and discernment of a master scholar, she offers new perspectives on familiar figures and events while focusing on often-unexplored or overlooked areas, such as the role of women in the Renaissance, the daily lives of the rural poor and urban elite, Renaissance home and family life, and the powerful connections between the Renaissance and the Reformation. Here, in one course, is an authoritative, wide-ranging, and multidisciplinary way to experience not just one of Europe’s Renaissance movements—but all of them.


A Truly Transformative Period

“The scope of our course is broad,” says Professor McNabb, “because I want us to see the Renaissance not as a single event but as a transformative process whose influences touched many areas of early modern life.”

Renaissance: The Transformation of the West is organized into several sections that make the expansiveness of this historical period all the more manageable.

  • Italian Renaissance: Examine how the Renaissance got its start in city-states, including Florence and Rome; how men like Machiavelli epitomized the “Renaissance Man;” and how the Medici and Renaissance popes maintained power.


  • Northern Renaissance: Go beyond Italy for an extended look at how the Renaissance played out in places like England and the Netherlands. Along the way, you’ll follow the lives and careers of people like Jan van Eyck, François Rabelais, and Thomas More.
  • Renaissance Life: What were Renaissance attitudes about shame and honor? Why were letters so important to so many Renaissance writers? How did women exert power? How did different societies construct their ideas about marriage?


  • Renaissance Faith: Central to these centuries were competing beliefs about the role of faith in political and daily life. Professor McNabb guides you through the Reformation, religious positions of theologians like Luther and Calvin, the Council of Trent, and more.
  • Renaissance Politics: Perhaps, the single most important transformation in Renaissance Europe occurred not in the humanities but in politics and economics. You’ll explore the roots of modern diplomacy, capitalism, warfare, and global rivalries.


New Stories, Insights, and Revelations

By observing the Renaissance less casually and more critically, Professor McNabb offers a wealth of facts, details, insights, and connections you can’t find in typical narratives that celebrate the centuries between medievalism and modernity.

Here are just a few of many exciting, intriguing, and illuminating things you’ll uncover in Renaissance: The Transformation of the West.

  • Renaissance palace schools believed in close, interpersonal relationships between teacher and student—a marked contrast to dispassionate medieval classrooms, where corporal punishment was liberally employed.


  • While no new concept of femininity emerged during the Renaissance, noble women were able to contribute to the culture of the period, beyond their own productions, through the process of patronage.
  • One of the most important musical innovations by the famed Renaissance composer, Guillaume Dufay, involved replacing medieval chants traditionally used for Mass with more dynamic and complex secular tunes.


  • A popular feast day celebrating St. John the Baptist (dated June 24) was grafted onto older, pre-Christian traditions celebrating the summer solstice and fertility—which is why it’s often referred to as Midsummer.
  • During the later centuries of the Renaissance, secular authorities as well as spiritual ones got involved in the witch-hunting business; rulers seeking to centralize state power saw witches as dangerous obstacles to their political goals.


  • The pastry casings we associate with Renaissance meals were simply a cooking vessel that contained the filling—as the crust buffered the pies’ valuable insides—and were often discarded at Renaissance tables, uneaten.

The Greatest Stories Ever Told

Professor McNabb’s extensive background in medieval and Renaissance history makes her the perfect guide through these exciting, tumultuous, and powerful centuries of Western civilization.

She brings to every lecture of Renaissance: The Transformation of the West the same celebrated teaching style that has earned her awards, including the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching from Western Illinois University. She’s also taken care to include maps, illustrations, portraits, paintings, literary excerpts, and other elements to help you organize the epic scope of this subject.

“I think we’re still living the Renaissance,” Professor McNabb says. “We’re Renaissance people. We’ve updated some aspects of the Renaissance past and infused it with our own contemporary concerns. And, such activities are in keeping with the Renaissance as well.”

Prepare for a deep dive into Europe’s great Renaissance movements, which Professor McNabb considers the greatest stories ever told—and ones well worth listening to, still.

Hide Full Description
48 lectures
 |  Average 33 minutes each
  • 1
    The Spirit of Renaissance
    How did the Renaissance—as it occurred in Italy and in other parts of Europe—pioneer a new way of thinking about history itself? Who, exactly, was the typical “Renaissance Man”? Get answers to these and other questions about the Renaissance’s powerful fusion of classical and medieval worldviews. x
  • 2
    Rebirth: Classical Values Made New
    Here, consider how the key contexts and values of the European Renaissance set the stage for a new era of questions. The two chief examples you'll use to chart the origins of the European Renaissance are the Black Death and the letters of Petrarch. x
  • 3
    The Medieval Roots of Italian Renaissance
    Discover why the Renaissance first bloomed in, of all places, Italy. First, look at the politics and economics of medieval Italian states. Then, explore how the legacies of antiquity gained traction throughout the peninsula. Finally, consider the influence of trade revivals, a dynamic social order, and the profits from holy wars. x
  • 4
    The Rise of the Humanists
    Focus on one of the most-challenging foundational concepts of the Renaissance: humanism. Professor McNabb outlines how and why education underwent its extreme makeover, explores the fields that dominated this new way of learning, and introduces you to humanist schools and schoolmasters. x
  • 5
    Renaissance Florence: Age of Gold
    Florence, defined by hierarchy and inequality, has become synonymous with the Italian Renaissance. How did this happen? Here, you will explore the complex political journey of this “most noble” of cities from model republic to six decades of domination by the iconic Medici family, and back again. x
  • 6
    Renaissance Venice: More Serene Republic
    Dive into the byzantine history and legacy of Venice during the period of the Renaissance, when the city managed to prosper even without that most valuable of commodities: land. Learn how Venice was shaped by its merchant elite, how it joined the ranks of Italian city-states, and how Venice experienced humanism. x
  • 7
    Renaissance Rome and the Papal States
    Investigate how the new learning in Rome challenged the wisdom of centuries of spiritual authority as the capital of Christianity. While exploring Rome's papal history, encounter the noble family who considered it their birthright to wield control over the city: the infamous Borgias (including Cesare and Pope Alexander VI). x
  • 8
    Renaissance Italy's Princes and Rivals
    In this lecture, turn to the other great power players in Renaissance Italy, including the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily and the duchy of Milan. Then, examine the eclipse of the age of the republics by the age of the tyrants: elite families who used cunning to obtain—and maintain—positions of authority. x
  • 9
    Renaissance Man as Political Animal
    Renaissance Man can perhaps best be understood as an educational and political ideal, someone as schooled in warfare as he was in classical antiquity. Here, meet three men whose lives and works exemplify different iterations of the Renaissance Man in action: Niccolo Machiavelli, Baldassare Castiglione, and Leon Battista Alberti. x
  • 10
    Women and the Italian Renaissance Court
    Step inside 15th- and 16th-century Italian courts to investigate how a number of smart, powerful, and cunning women helped steer the course of the Renaissance. Among the women you'll meet are Isabella d'Este, noted for her trendsetting sense of style and substance, and the Italian poet, Veronica Franco. x
  • 11
    Painting in the Early Italian Renaissance
    Using the careers and works of artists like Masaccio, Giotto, and Botticelli, discover how early Renaissance painting innovated and celebrated the experience of being human. In addition, you'll examine the business side of art, including matters of patronage that were central to artists during the Italian Renaissance. x
  • 12
    Painting in the High Italian Renaissance
    Turn now to the High Italian Renaissance era of painting, credited with a veritable artistic revolution in the art form. During this time, artists like Leonardo and Michelangelo were celebrities who rubbed shoulders with the rich and powerful. Not to be overlooked: the role of women painters, including Artemisia Gentileschi. x
  • 13
    Italian Sculpture, Architecture, and Music
    Learn how Renaissance architects and city planners—including Donato Bramante, Sebastian Serlio, and Andrea Palladio—imbued sculpture and architecture with tremendous ideological and practical power. Then, discover how Renaissance musicians helped move music out of the religious sphere and into the princely courts. x
  • 14
    Letters in the Italian Renaissance
    In this lecture, examine the lives and careers of a trio of fascinating Renaissance authors who used their words to help write the Renaissance into the pages of history. Professor McNabb covers the merchant, Francesco Datini; the artist-biographer, Giorgio Vasari; and the Florentine historian, Francesco Guicciardini. x
  • 15
    Renaissance Statecraft: A New Path
    Venture to the other side of the Alps for a closer look at what’s known as the “Northern Renaissance.” You’ll chart the political evolution of the region from barbarism to feudalism to feudal monarchy, explore why feudal monarchies trended toward weakness, and get a brief overview of power struggles among northern kings. x
  • 16
    European Renaissance Monarchies
    Turn the lens on the monarchical rivalries of the Northern Renaissance, which changed the course of Western politics as much as the rivalries in Italy. Focus on the rule of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, the rise of the Tudors in England, and the waxing power of France. x
  • 17
    The Birth of the Christian Renaissance
    Consider the development of humanist thought in the north, which commingled with the idea of a Christian rebirth and a reordering of society's morals that planted the seeds for the Reformation. Among the inquisitive and critical Christian humanists you'll encounter are Erasmus and Thomas More. x
  • 18
    Northern Renaissance Art and Music
    Using works by Matthias Grünewald, Jan van Eyck, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Hans Holbein the Younger, and others, explore how northern artists breathed artistic life into themes of faith, duty, and fidelity. Then, visit the court of the dukes of Burgundy for a look at the music of Guillaume Dufay. x
  • 19
    Northern Renaissance Literature and Drama
    Meet the Northern Renaissance authors and playwrights who offered entertainments and edification in the page and on the stage—authors who would become some of the greatest writers in Western history. These geniuses include François Rabelais; Miguel de Cervantes; William Langland; Geoffrey Chaucer; and, of course, William Shakespeare. x
  • 20
    Did Women Have a Renaissance?
    Examine the “woman question”: the contemporary debate about Renaissance women’s abilities and deficiencies. The question, as you’ll learn, was really about access to education. Along the way, you’ll consider whether we can say women had a renaissance of their own—and why that issue still matters today. x
  • 21
    Renaissance Life: The Rural Experience
    In the first of several sketches on the conditions of Renaissance life, explore the geographical setting where the vast majority of the European population lived at the time: the countryside. You'll look at festivals and feast days, types of settlements, the competition for land, and the peasant rebellions that followed. x
  • 22
    Renaissance Life: The Urban Experience
    How exactly do we define “urban” during the Renaissance? How did three, early modern institutions—craft guilds, confraternities, and public drinking establishments—help to define the urban experience? Find out in Professor McNabb’s fascinating lecture on the urban experiences of rich and poor alike. x
  • 23
    Renaissance Life: Crime, Deviance, and Honor
    Continue exploring daily life during the Renaissance by turning to issues of personal crisis—and their consequences. In studying crime, deviance, and Renaissance attitudes toward honor and shame, you’ll discover how early modern communities and authorities sought to order the world and project their morality. x
  • 24
    Renaissance Life: Marriage
    Marriage during the Renaissance was a major component of the “good life” during the period. It was also a complicated affair shaped by the intersection of private desires with more practical considerations. Delve into the ways Renaissance societies constructed marriage, and how marriage customs differed depending on geographic location. x
  • 25
    Renaissance Life: Home and Hearth
    What was domestic life like during the Renaissance? Get a feel for it with this lecture that highlights several topics related to home and hearth. These topics include: food culture (with a focus on baking), the practicalities of dress, the details about childrearing, and the role of servants and retainers. x
  • 26
    Renaissance Faith: Medieval Contexts
    Examine the two medieval heavyweights whose legendary disputes illustrate some key points about faith and power in the Renaissance world: King Philip IV of France and Pope Boniface VIII. Then, learn how new and revitalized orders—including Ci stercians and Franciscans—attracted adherents in astonishing numbers. x
  • 27
    Renaissance Faith: The Papacy
    The particular conditions of 15th- and 16th-century Italy allowed the popes to augment their power and fashion themselves as rulers. Here, explore papal programs designed to cement Rome as Christendom's true capital (after a century of geographic dislocations) and their architects, including Nicholas V, Pius II, and Sixtus IV. x
  • 28
    Renaissance Faith: Religious Uniformity
    Take a closer look at the ways in which European political authorities dealt with matters of faith in their drive to enhance authority. You'll learn about English theologian John Wyclif's challenges to traditional Christian authority, the persecution of European Jews, and the birth of the Inquisition. x
  • 29
    Luther: Breaking the Christian Consensus
    The Renaissance is vital to understanding how Martin Luther took on the church and not only survived but thrived, initiating a protest movement that put an end to more than 1,000 years of Christian consensus. Start considering Martin Luther as a man of a very particular historical moment. x
  • 30
    Radical Reform in Renaissance Europe
    Professor McNabb highlights the many fractures that strengthened the shockwaves Martin Luther created in Christianity—some of which he couldn’t foresee or control. Learn the importance of the Anabaptists, the tumult of the German Peasants’ War, and why Martin Luther resists easy demonization or lionization. x
  • 31
    Renaissance and Reformation: Connections
    Turn your attention to various calls for a reformation of faith identifiably shaped by the new learning of the Renaissance and the ideas of Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin. Calvin's ideas traveled on to Scotland, where the Reformation, working in tandem with powerful men, toppled a monarch from the throne. x
  • 32
    English Reformation
    Embark on an exciting look at the causes, processes, and consequences of the Tudor reformations, featuring some of the most famous personages in English history, including Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, and Elizabeth I. What made this path to reform so different from events playing elsewhere on the European continent? x
  • 33
    Catholic Reformations: The Road to Trent
    Why didn’t the Catholic Church defeat the Reformation? Why didn’t it do more to stop Martin Luther? Cultivate a new way of thinking about the papal response to the theological revolution—epitomized by the Council of Trent, which created a Roman Catholic identity. x
  • 34
    Catholic Reformations: Spiritual Revival
    In the face of the slings and arrows of Protestant reformers, the Catholic Church lauded a number of individuals whose commitment to the “true faith” offered a balance to the Reformation that threatened to bury Catholicism. Learn how men and women became exemplars of piety during the Catholic Reformation. x
  • 35
    Reformation Culture: Continuity and Change
    Get a feel for what it was like to be a Protestant or Catholic in Reformation Europe. Your focus here: the culture wars that accompanied this period, including the rise of iconoclasts like Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, the use of vernacular language in religious services, and the dawn of Baroque art. x
  • 36
    Renaissance War and Peace: Diplomacy
    In the first of several lectures on the interaction among the states of early modern Europe, learn how diplomacy operated in a Europe increasingly characterized by religious dissention and violence. Central to this subject is the important role of permanent ambassadors and other diplomatic figures. x
  • 37
    The French Wars of Religion
    Religious violence kept France in its grip for an entire century. Discover how the French Wars of Religion sparked both bloodshed and a new way of thinking about the relationship between individuals and the figures of power to whom they owed allegiance (a favorite topic of Renaissance writers). x
  • 38
    The Dutch Revolt
    Witness a number of factors you've examined in other lectures collide in a fascinating (if also, destructive and costly) way during the Dutch Revolt. You'll also see a glimmer of the new demands of early modern warfare and the role of print in presenting a platform for action. x
  • 39
    The Spanish Armada
    Get the full story behind the Spanish Armada by paying attention to three key issues: the rivalry of Philip of Spain and Elizabeth I of England, the Spanish Armada's fateful engagement with the English in the summer of 1588, and the untidy consequences of Spain's defeat. x
  • 40
    The Thirty Years' War
    Welcome to ground zero of religious warfare during the Age of Reformation: The Thirty Years' War, which would engulf most of the European continent. By the end of this lecture, you'll learn how this struggle drew the map of Europe that would exist until the French Revolution. x
  • 41
    Renaissance at Arms: The Military Revolution
    What, exactly, constitutes a military revolution? What are the four major changes that happened between 1560 and 1660 that transformed warfare? How did a typical warrior from the 15th century compare to his counterpart 200 years later? How did large gunpowder weaponry influence other military developments? x
  • 42
    Renaissance and the Birth of Modern Science
    Professor McNabb guides you through the intersection of Renaissance values and patronage with the new ways of thinking about the universe brought about by the Scientific Revolution. See how many of the activities and individuals associated with this period exhibit key dynamics of the Renaissance covered in other lectures. x
  • 43
    Renaissance and Magic: Witchcraft
    Between 1450 and 1700, somewhere between 40,000 to 60,000 people were executed on charges of witchcraft. Why did ideas about demons and witches have such an appeal in early modern Europe? How did these beliefs produce a new type of criminal to be targeted by secular and spiritual authorities? x
  • 44
    Renaissance Encounters with Islam
    From the Reconquista to the collapse of Christian Constantinople to the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent, examine the relationship between Christians and Muslims during the early modern period—a relationship of competition and coexistence that shaped the development of the Western tradition. x
  • 45
    Renaissance and Exploration: Motives
    The Age of Discovery can be thought of, in many ways, as a Renaissance project. Here, you'll learn many of the values, motivations, and conflicts that fostered preconditions for European exploration, including a curiosity about the natural world, technological innovations, and the underlying quest for glory and riches. x
  • 46
    Renaissance and Exploration: New Horizons
    How did Portugal and Spain set out to build overseas empires? Examine the first round of European expansion in the Americas and the Indian Ocean basin in the broader contexts of the Renaissance. Along the way, follow the journeys and discoveries of explorers like Christopher Columbus and Francisco Pizarro. x
  • 47
    Early Modern Power: The New Global Rivalries
    Turn now to other European states joining the race for global empire. Consider the developments of three states—the Dutch Republic, Britain, and France—in an age of change, and learn how they helped spell the demise of the Ancien Régime and the birth of the modern world. x
  • 48
    Renaissance Legacy: Burckhardt and Beyond
    Return to the critical question that started this entire course: Have we reached the end of the Renaissance? Professor McNabb uses this concluding lecture to reflect on the meaning of the Renaissance for its contemporaries, for subsequent historians like Jacob Burckhardt, and for us in the 21st century. x

Lecture Titles

Clone Content from Your Professor tab

What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 48 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
Instant Audio Includes:
  • Download 48 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 48 lectures on 8 DVDs
  • 376-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 376-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos and illustrations
  • Suggested reading
  • Questions to consider

Enjoy This Course On-the-Go with Our Mobile Apps!*

  • App store App store iPhone + iPad
  • Google Play Google Play Android Devices
  • Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Tablet + Firephone
*Courses can be streamed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Standard carrier data rates may apply in areas that do not have wifi connections pursuant to your carrier contract.

Your professor

Jennifer McNabb

About Your Professor

Jennifer McNabb, Ph.D.
Western Illinois University
Dr. Jennifer McNabb is a professor of history and the chair of the Department of History at Western Illinois University. She received her PhD in History from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2003. Since joining Western Illinois University in 2005, Professor McNabb has received the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Faculty Award for Teaching and for Service. She...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor


Renaissance: The Transformation of the West is rated 4.0 out of 5 by 43.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well Done McNabb is excellent. She delivers succinct, tight lectures with always something new or interesting to learn from each, and there are a lot...48. She's an excellent professor and I'm very thankful she took this project on.
Date published: 2019-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Impressive scope Much of the material in the course was a review for me, having done some graduate studies in history from Late Antiquity through the Reformation, informal reading, and other offerings from The Great Courses. I was struck by how many areas Prof. McNabb covers and enjoyed the course. (The one thing that bothered me, as a student of languages, was her use of a schwa sound at the end of Italian words like d'Este. Maybe it's just me but I have never heard an anglicization like that and Italian never blurs a vowel to that extent. A really minor quibble. Her handling of non-English proper names is generally excellent. I listen to courses while driving, so being able to visualize what I hear is important.)
Date published: 2019-09-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Very Disappointing. This course features hundreds of Italian, French, and German names, cities, and key terms. I think it's a fair expectation they be pronounced clearly and professionally. But they weren't. The Italian was painfully inaccurate and very confusing at times. Hearing common words like Giotto, Giovanni, Masaccio, Ciompi, Strozzi, Favia, Signoria, Gasparo, etc. mispronounced over and over again for the first 15 lectures was like entering the Twilight Zone. Verrocchio doesn't rhyme with Pinocchio? Giotto has 3 syllables? My second grade social studies teacher did better with Genoa (not je-Noah) when we learned about Christopher Columbus as children. And those are the common words. You can usually figure them out with a little effort. The bigger problem was trying to decipher the new and unfamiliar names, which were interesting to learn about, but I couldn't quite catch their names due to the speaker's horrendous diction and unfamiliarity with even the most basic elements of Italian pronunciation. That's when this course became a nightmare. Hearing Masaccio or Giotto mispronounced 5 or 10 times each in single lectures was simply torturous. German words were sometimes even worse. I think I hit the rewind button five times trying to decipher the 'Bunsche?' Revolts in Lecture 21, 30'35". In so doing, I also got to hear the word 'Jacquerie' from the previous sentence 5 times, a two-syllable French word that somehow has 3 syllables when Prof. McNabb pronounces it in her finest French accent. I eventually gave up on 'Bunsche' until I got home--did I mention I speak German fluently?--only to find it's not in the guidebook. Days later, with some creative googling and sheer determination, I solved the mystery: Bundschuh, whereby 'schuh' should sound like, well, the 'shoe' that it is! Neither Jacquerie nor Bundschuh were ever clarified in that lecture, just mispronounced once in a drive-by and thrown on the heap with all the other name-droppings that already overpopulate this course. French vocab was generally fine until you get a hard word like Reims, which was botched beyond recognition. I assume she meant that city based solely on context and how a person who didn't know better might mispronounce it. I've taken hundreds of Great Courses over the years, and all professors I can recall present core vocab clearly and professionally, serving as role models for us to repeat those words with confidence in later conversation. That's one of the reasons I buy these audio/visual courses. This course fell woefully short of that standard. Otherwise, Prof. McNabb has a pleasant speaking voice (in English) and some lectures were wonderful. I enjoyed learning about her research in England and the discussions of northern Renaissance life for men, women, and children. But most of the journey was tedious and disappointing. I would not recommend this course to anyone I know.
Date published: 2019-07-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Renaissance revisited There is no doubt Dr McNabb knows the subject, the issue is the transfer of this information, or too much of it in these lectures. Too many names, too many places, too many events, given without adequate context or summary. I have a great interest in this era of european history and its profound impact on our world and thinking today. I do not think this course brings one much further along in that quest. I have over thirty Great Courses in my library and this one is undoubtedly the hardest to follow.
Date published: 2019-06-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disjointed I’m having a difficult time completing the series. The early lectures seem to jump around a lot. I’ve had difficulty putting things into perspective.
Date published: 2019-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Never Ending Learning I've been listening to The Great Courses CD's in my car for about 15 years. The Renaissance is my latest course. It helps to know where we come from. The lecture makesvme feel like I was there while it was happening.
Date published: 2019-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazingly Good! I own and have watched a number of Great Courses, and this one surpasses them all. The material is excellent and very well arranged. The presenter is the best I have had. Dr. McNabb doesn't just know her stuff; she presents it clearly, professionally and leaves you at the end of each episode wanting to go on to the next one, no matter how late it is! 48 Episodes go by in a flash!
Date published: 2019-03-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from MUST have advanced knowledge of the subject I have read quite a bit on the Italian Renaissance - including several from The Great Courses: Italian Renaissance by Bartlett, Italians before Italy by Bartlett, Books that Matter: The Prince, etc., but I found the first several chapters of this lecture unnecessarily arduous. Names, important families, places were covered so rapidly it was impossible to build a good umbrella over the subject with some solid anchoring information. For one of her three key Renaissance Men, Professor McNabb chose Baldassare Castiglione. It seemed she did this mainly to introduce his text Il Cortegiano. I was surprised not to find Federico da Montefeltro, who is widely considered a key Renaissance Man, as one of those three. She easily could have then flowed the lecture to Montefeltro’s heir Guidobaldo da Montefeltro and to his court which included Castiglione. Finally, Professor McNabb’s mispronunciation of important Italian people and places is brutal! I had to re-listen to a section several times to figure out to which town she was referring when she pronounced the town of Pesaro like the name of the explorer of Peru, Pizarro. It is appalling that a professor cannot pronounce important Italian names in what is her field of expertise. Mispronouncing names such as Masaccio, Giovanni, etc. is mind numbing! To add a bit of balance to this review - her chapter on Women in the Renaissance was interesting.
Date published: 2019-02-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from No matter how much you know, it fills in blanks I've written about leaders of the Renaissance, been to many of the key places, and the only resource for the general public I found more helpful was Will Durant's The Story of Civilization. The critic who was going to give up after six lectures has the opposite spirit about learning the Renaissance stimulated.
Date published: 2019-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Welcome to the Renaissance!! I practically salivated when this course was released. I have read every book on the Renaissance and watched all of the Great Courses on the subject but this course was a joy from start to finish. Essentially it is a general overview of the Renaissance as a historical event and the effects it had on creating modern Europe. Since the Teaching Company as already produced many courses on the subject especially in different areas like art and music, Professor McNabb takes her time to look at such issues like statecraft, poetry, letters, and daily life. The lectures on daily life were particularly interesting to me as this is a subject area that I feel we need to know more about. Professor McNabb gave a nuanced and well-rounded look at how average people lived their lives and who never made it into the history books. This course gave me a more well-rounded portrait of the Renaissance as a pivot in the modern history of Europe and the world.
Date published: 2019-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eloquent exposition Very detailed in her exposition. Best course on the subject
Date published: 2019-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Superb Course; Broad and Deep; Elegantly Taught This is a fascinating and beautifully taught overview of the Renaissance, worthwhile for any who are not already expert. Most courses sacrifice breadth for depth, or the reverse. Because of its length and the ability of our professor, this one offers both. It covers appropriately the history leading up to the Renaissance and also offers a significant look at the century or so after its traditional ending, to help us understand its legacy. And in addition to reviewing the major themes of Renaissance history, many details are provided to make them real. The information density of each lecture is extraordinarily high. Professor McNabb is outstanding. She is highly knowledgeable and superbly organized, and speaks in a well-modulated voice in eloquent English. Some of the negative reviews note the preponderance of specific facts and a relative lack of synthesizing generalities. To me, this is a strength of this course, and a major revelation - the Renaissance, Professor McNabb emphasizes, was not a neatly partitioned bit of history, nicely sandwiched between the Middle Ages and the Reformation and Enlightenment, as it certainly was taught in my own schooling. The many and diverse groups within society and between countries experienced the Renaissance very differently, and the boundaries between it and the preceding and subsequent periods were anything but distinct. I particularly appreciated our professor's stress on "ordinary" people, in addition to the usual "big man / big event" approach. The lecture titles will give you an accurate idea of the topics discussed. The superb final lecture does provide a concise review of the overarching themes of the course and of the Renaissance. In fact, I strongly recommend watching this first, to give you a useful conceptualization of what is to come. So - This course has my highest recommendation for any with an interest in Western (or, indeed, world) history, and a desire to understand how we got where we are, for better and for worse. Yes, it will take some time and concentration. It's worth it.
Date published: 2019-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative As a high school teacher, I thought I needed to brush up on the Renaissance. This course fit the bill for that purpose. It's a longer course but I listened to it as I drove to work and it gave me confidence as I taught some unfamiliar subject matter.
Date published: 2019-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Important historical context and information Really enjoying this course. Some refreshing views of the Renaissance - not the usual single perspective. Instructor very knowledgeable.
Date published: 2018-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant teacher! I watched all 48 lectures. This course was superb. There were so many new things I learned about the Renaissance from Professor McNabb.
Date published: 2018-12-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too disjointed and superficial I enjoyed Daileader's course on Late Middle Ages and Bartlett's course on the Italian Renaissance, and was hoping this course would help consolidate my knowledge from those and help fill in the 'holes', with more on the Northern Renaissance and Reformation. However, I find the presentation too superficial and disjointed, it's virtually impossible to put together an "integrated picture" of what's going on. There are too many asserted vague generalities that don't connect to anything. Too often, names and events are dropped in and dismissed with a sentence or two (which is bewildering if I have no prior knowledge of them, and adds nothing if I do.) I would feel lost at sea if not for the more in-depth, integrated treatment of many people and events I had already learned from Daileader and Bartlett. That said, some individual lectures are focused enough and go deep enough to be interesting (e.g., on Luther), but that's the exception. With the vast majority of Teaching Company courses, I "can't wait" to get to the next lecture. With this course, I'm really dragging, it feels more like a chore to get through it, and I keep contemplating giving up on it altogether.
Date published: 2018-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Presentation Since I studied history in college and took a masters in modern European history, much of this course was a review for me. That said, Professor McNabb's conversational style provided a great deal of information and discussion of historical interpretations in a deceptively easy to digest manner. I especially appreciated the time she spent on the Reformation and the not-always easy relationship its leaders had with Humanism.
Date published: 2018-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great introductory course I am almost through the 48 lectures and for the most part I have enjoyed Prof. McNabb's presentations. Her Italian pronunciation needs some work though. I rated her presentation as good based on this. She also needs to correct her mistake regarding Michelangelo's David. The "real" David is housed in the Accademia and not in the Uffizi. If I were at her university I think I would seriously consider any courses she teaches.
Date published: 2018-11-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A Passable Course I love the Great Courses. My mid-life crisis was discovering my mind had turned into a useless pudding and deciding it was time to force thoughts into that pudding to see if a brain could be reforged. By happenstance a Great Courses magazine came into my life and a 100ish courses later, I seem to have a functioning mind and an invigorating hobby. In that time I've come to judge courses by passion, performance and expertise. In the first seven minutes of the second lecture in the lovely new course on Mesopotamia, the instructor took subjects I knew well and gave new insight and made my laugh. The topics were the agricultural revolution, language and viewpoint, well worn to any armchair historian. Yet the instructor's mention that our own earlier lack of cell and smartphones hadn't made us feel somehow deprived when we had to physically 'dial' a phone and hope our friend was home reminded me of the evolution of technology from the other side. I wasn't less human before my smartphone, nor were hunters and gatherers less human before agriculture. They were just like us with sophisticated language and sophistication in hunting and gathering. Through this instruction the professor has a twinkle in her eye and a clear love for teaching me about a subject she is passionate about and indeed has made her life's work. Why this long ramble? Because this course on the Renaissance is the antithesis of the seven minute experience I mentioned above. This is history taught with a sneer, a tabloid history featuring brief autobiographies that search for the folly and failure in the lives of the great men of history and taught with the shallow knowledge of a high school level course. To be fair this is a better description of the first 20 lectures than the later 28. It is the Italian Renaissance and history of the arts that seem most effected by this treatment. The lectures on Renaissance life are much better and the high point of the course with the coverage of the Reformation also coming closer to a quality college overview. The later lectures on subjects like science and exploration return to being rather trite with little content. The focus of the course is generally on people, while this is good in some ways and for a brilliant treatment see the Other Side of History, it seems to come at the expense of everything else. There is little geography or sense of place, in part due to a lack of maps, little technology, little economics or the other non-people things that explain why things happened and ground a course. Often I thought that if this were a course on the history of middle earth it wouldn't have felt more of less grounded in reality than it did set in Renaissance Europe. Mostly what is missing is the joy. Many Great Courses Instructors revel in teaching you personally (yes I know that is an illusion), in the subject they love, in storytelling and showmanship and just the whole concept of passing on knowledge in a memorable and enjoyable way. This is workmanlike. It is going to a job at a blue block retail store and selling cellphones. The knowledge is passable, the style is passable, the course is passable. Now I'm off to learn about ancient people in the Tigris and Euphrates Valleys learning to poke holes in the mud and plant seeds, packing mud into bricks and leaving them outside to dry and inventing funny writing that looks like geometry. I'm going to enjoy myself no end because I have a wonderful teacher which is the case with most Great Courses.
Date published: 2018-10-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well spoken, well organized Articulate and erudite, Dr. McNabb does an excellent job of leading the listener through the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. The course is well organized, and Dr. McNabb is clearly in control of the material. My only complaint, and this is not really her fault, is the course is too ambitious. It covers prodigious material; consequently, it cannot really plumb the depths. The good news is that there are great courses on Machiavelli, The Italian Renaissance, and Renaissance Art also available. Use this as a broad overview. Then research more trenchantly. Bravo to Dr. McNabb!
Date published: 2018-10-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth the Time This is a LONG (48 lectures) course covering history, visual arts, music, and literature of Europe from the 14th century to the 16th century. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile. Although Dr. McNabb takes an expansive view of the Renaissance, she comes across as well-versed in the entire spectrum of knowledge. This course is valuable to anybody interested in the birth of Western modernity and why it took the shape it did. The scope of the course is sweeping. It starts with the Italian Renaissance and then proceeds northward to the Northern Renaissance. It continues past the normally accepted boundaries of the Renaissance to the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Reformation. It adds sections on life of ordinary persons, wars of the sixteenth century, and the Age of Discovery. It is valuable to see the continuity of all these eras. Dr. McNabb is knowledgeable on this extended era of history. Her presentation style is easy to follow although it is more low-key than other teachers for The Great Courses. She is respectful of all religions mentioned in the course without indicating a preference for any of them. Dr. McNabb’s specialty is history of marriage. I hope that TGC notices this an adds a course on that topic. I used the video version. With the exception of the short section on arts of the Italian Renaissance, the audio version would probably have been just as good. In retrospect, I probably should have gotten the audio version.
Date published: 2018-09-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Engaged professor; too much material Professor McNabb is engaged with the material and presents it with enthusiasm. Sadly that's about all I can say positively about this course.I think the challenge as other reviewers have mentioned is that she is trying to do too much with this course. As an example, the lecture on the northern European Renaissance includes a whirlwind tour of the various dynastic successions in England, France and the Holy Roman Empire. Maybe a deeper dive into any of these individually would have been enjoyable -- and likely enough for an entire course -- but I'm not even sure why they are included in setting the stage for the Renaissance. I feel like Professor McNabb and the Great Courses were trying to jam an entire AP European History course into a 48 lecture series.
Date published: 2018-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoying this series - and learning a great deal in the bargain.
Date published: 2018-08-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Broad coverage, very well done I really enjoyed this course - a lot of information about an interesting historical period, very well presented. I've seen numerous GC courses, and this is in the upper level of them. It doesn't hurt, that the professor is very good looking, and very well spoken. I bumped into a YouTube video she did on witches - one of the more lucid and comprehensive treatments of the subject I've seen or read - that made me jump on this course. One reviewer gave it a low rating. However, In his review he mentioned he also disliked a couple courses by Bart Ehrman, a professor who deals with early Christianity in objective historical terms, versus mythology. Don't hesitate to see this course.
Date published: 2018-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Details of a Re-birth The fascinating period of a European re-birth is explained beautifully. We learn details of the art, the politics, the culture, and religious up-heaval. As someone who is interested in both the arts and philosophy, I was enthralled by details of the cultural connection between them. The period's political and social changes are also fascinating. This course also reveals the relationship between the politics of that period and our own. Despite having studied elements of the period in college and graduate school, I learned (and re-learned) much more.
Date published: 2018-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Worthy Overview This course provides an excellent overview of early modern European politics, culture, and society. Professor McNabb strikes the perfect balance between depth of content and ease of presentation, making this course accessible and edifying for beginners and experts alike. For a written overview of the same material, I would recommend Reformations by Carlos M. N. Eire.
Date published: 2018-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific course This course complements several other courses offered by TGC, including The Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Rise of Nations (Andrew Fix), The Italian Renaissance (Kenneth Bartlett). Prof. McNabb integrates political and cultural history to tell a story that is much richer than all-too-common popular histories describing the triumph of the west. Although I purchased the video version the video is not essential. Strongly recommended.
Date published: 2018-08-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from New look at the Renaissance! I’m only three lectures in, but .... I have thoroughly enjoyed each one. I am a retired European history teacher and Professor McNabb has hit the right notes for me. Looking forward to the rest.
Date published: 2018-08-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Integrative & thematic perspective of Renaissanse This course covers an enormous amount of content, and many of its chapters (sometimes lasting around ten minutes of lecture) could be covered in separate twelve-hour courses. In fact, TGC has many courses on subjects that were only superficially covered here, but received profound and detailed attention in dedicated courses. Just a partial list: Machiavelli in context, Italians before Italy, Italian Renaissance, a whole bunch of courses on Renaissance fine art, Popes and Papacy, Dante’s divine comedy, Essential Italy and many more. Some of these courses (Professor Bartlett’s courses on Italy come to mind) were some of the most fascinating and delightful I have heard in TGC. Given that there are so many courses overlapping in content, it is good that this course chose a very a different granularity and perspective; and can therefore provide new insight about this key era. It does not drill down particularly deep on any particular aspect. Instead, it seeks to provide an integrative and broad survey of what the renaissance was, and how it affected the evolution of Western history. Professor McNabb states herself near the beginning of the course that in her coverage of the Renaissance, she will survey a much more extended era in history (both prior and later) than is usually associated with the Renaissance, as well as extended geographies. Particularly, her analysis of the late medieval period and the beginning of Humanism were important for understanding how the Renaissance way of thought began to evolve, and why it developed so intensely in Italy and not in other parts of Europe. The thematic lectures on life of common people in the Renaissance era were fantastic and new to me. They reminded me a lot of Professor Armstrong’s wonderful medieval course “Medieval World” which was also substantially analytical but covered a different period. These lectures really helped to get a mental picture of various everyday aspects such as food and drink, women’s lives, law and order, marriage, and urban life for example. The main point of the course, in my opinion, is to show how many aspects of later history or contemporary history in other geographies had their roots in the Italian Renaissance. Good examples are the evolution of literature and fine arts in Northern Europe, or the evolution of music. Naturally, the church went through very turbulent times during this period, and she describes very thoroughly and quite fairly in my opinion, the behavior of the mostly dysfunctional popes of this era, to what extent their dysfunction stemmed from Renaissance ideas, and how these ideas in many ways changed the Catholic church forever and served as a catalyst for the reformation. So overall, although much of the content is presented in other TGC courses that I have heard and enjoyed, this course had quite an original - much more integrative and analytical perspective than the others and provided a lot of new insight. Professor McNabb’s presentation was entertaining, easy to follow, and easy stay attuned to. Overall, I think that the initial reviews were much too harsh. Yes, there are some very fine courses in TGC that go into finer detail, but this is not what this course is about…
Date published: 2018-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It’s History, Not Ideology These review boards are quickly getting filled by a vocal group who appear to feel their sacred cows are being threatened. Rather than make this yet another polemic, albeit from the other side, let me just state that I am more than halfway through this outstanding course and love it. Sadly, the Renaissance was not all rainbows and unicorns for all, or even many, groups of citizens. And, yet, the stories of those people—AND the stories of great intellectual and artistic achievements—are both important and compelling, filling in typically missing nuance to an era far too often painted with a very broad brush. This is the Renaissance as it was experienced, and if that shatters our fragile notions of what we want it to be, well, so be it. That’s just history, not ideology.
Date published: 2018-08-01
  • y_2020, m_9, d_20, h_15
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.12
  • cp_2, bvpage2n
  • co_hasreviews, tv_3, tr_40
  • loc_en_US, sid_3917, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.0
  • CLOUD, getContent, 45.13ms

Questions & Answers

Customers Who Bought This Course Also Bought