Beyond the Book: Background information when reading In The Company of the Courtesan

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In The Company of the Courtesan

by Sarah Dunant

In The Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2006, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2007, 392 pages

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A Brief History of The Renaissance

The Renaissance period (from the French word 'rebirth', Il Rinascimento in Italian) was a period of scientific and cultural changes. The Renaissance was triggered by a new interest in the ancient classical texts and a desire to learn how they could be applied to the arts and sciences - the result was a rebirth of European culture as a whole.

There is no one event that started or ended the period but the general consensus is that it began in the 14th century in northern Italy, and spread north through Europe during the 15th century. The English Renaissance began during the Elizabethan period (16th century). Although much of the new thinking originated in Italy, it was not all one way - during the 15th century innovation also spread southward, for example, Burgundy (now Eastern France, Netherlands & Belgium) was an area of musical creativity.

However, these changes only effected a small minority of the population - primarily the wealthy and powerful. For the majority, life was little changed from the centuries that came before. Indeed, some historians point out that many of the negative social factors usually associated with the former 'medieval' period (poverty, ignorance, warfare, religious and political persecution etc) actually worsened during the Renaissance.

A Pictorial Who's Who of Some Leading Renaissance Figures

*If you have trouble recognizing the paintings of Botticelli just remember the advice of my elementary school art teacher - "Botticelli paints people with chilly botties", but then again, so did many other Renaissance painters!

This article was originally published in February 2006, and has been updated for the February 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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