This wide-ranging exploration of the Renaissance sees the period as a time of unprecedented intellectual excitement and cultural experimentation and interaction on a global scale. It guides the reader through the key issues that defined the period, from its art, architecture, and literature, to its advancements in the fields of science, trade and travel.
Despite what most of us learned in high school, this scholarly yet accessible book argues that the storied achievements of the Renaissance did not rest solely on the chiseled shoulders of a few Italian men. Instead, posits Brotton, a lecturer at the University of London, the cultivated East had a profound impact on the West during the famously fertile period of 1400-1600. With broad brushstrokes, Brotton applies his thesis to major Renaissance innovations, revealing the Islamic world's contributions to fields as varied as cartography, astronomy, architecture and commerce. Not only did Iberian forays into Southeast Asia and Africa boost Western appetites for "conspicuous consumption" in the forms of spices and frippery, they also heightened Europe's awareness of her own status relative to her wealthy distant neighbors, the Ottoman Empire. Brotton goes north as well, singling out German and Flemish paintings as iconic representations of this East-West exchange. But in his plea for inclusion, he jeopardizes his own coverage: this lean volume suffers from an excess of overview and an absence of focus, which may disappoint, as might his cursory consideration of the regrettable consequences of this meeting of worlds-colonization, and the rise of the slave trade. 25 halftones & 8 color plates.