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The Myth of the Renaissance in Nineteenth-Century Writing$
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J. B. Bullen

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198128885

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198128885.001.0001

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The Foundations of Renaissance Historiography in the Eighteenth Century Voltaire and Gibbon

The Foundations of Renaissance Historiography in the Eighteenth Century Voltaire and Gibbon

Chapter:
1 The Foundations of Renaissance Historiography in the Eighteenth Century Voltaire and Gibbon
Source:
The Myth of the Renaissance in Nineteenth-Century Writing
Author(s):

J. B. BULLEN

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198128885.003.0002

The term ‘Renaissance’ is a relatively modern idea. It did not exist in the eighteenth century, and even in the nineteenth century it had a meaning rather different from ours. Our use of the word ‘Renaissance’ presupposes a view of history not shared by former generations. To the modern reader, the word ‘Renaissance’ brings to mind activities as diverse as architecture, painting, scientific and geographical discoveries, the political activities of the Italian city states, even Leonardo da Vinci’s studies of anatomy and mechanics. But this collection of signifiers would have had no significance for the eighteenth-century mind because for the eighteenth-century the various fifteenth-century revivals, literary, artistic, scientific, political, and philosophical, were independent movements existing largely in isolation from each other. Yet the myth of the Renaissance does have its roots in eighteenth-century historiography. This chapter looks at the foundations of Renaissance historiography in the eighteenth century, focusing on the works of Voltaire in France and Edward Gibbon in England.

Keywords:   Renaissance, history, Voltaire, Edward Gibbon, historiography, myth

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