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Jacob Burckhardt


Jacob Burckhardt was a famous renaissance cultural historian. He studied history at the universities of Basel and Berlin. His first work was on the age of Constantine the great. He would later concentrate on the most famous work on the renaissance of Italy. Unlike other historians who concentrated on politics and military topics in history, he focused on people, religion, and art. Indeed, Burckhardt was a different historian who made a huge contribution in history.

Unique Ideas about Renaissance

Burckhardt had very unique ideas about the Italian renaissance. He believed that it was a period of re-birth where people would focus on individual accomplishments. People who had lived through classical times were ready to being new chapters of their lives and hence invented things to help them transit from one era to another. Arguably, the individual may have struggled with breaking away from illusions and norms of the classical ideas before embracing re-birth. In the end, an individual would be focusing on re-discovering who they are and the part they played in the society, family and in a corporation. The break from the old to the new was hence positive and necessary.

In addition, though people were flourishing as individuals during the renaissance, they still had to conform to the idea of others in the society. They had to adjust to the advancements of literature, art, and science that became popular during the era. Tyrant rulers in Italy made the situation even worse by compelling people to do certain things. Therefore, self-expression did not always yield good results because the rulers found pleasure in expressing their ideas through dictatorship. As a result, peaceful coexistence in the society was disrupted. It is for this reason that Burckhardt indicated that the origin of modernity rose from darkest and turbulent times of the renaissance.

An Independent Minded Person

Besides the fact that Burckhardt had many unique ideas about renaissance and history, he lived a quite lifestyle and refused to be drawn to public forums. He would also not get married after painful experience with Margarethe Stehlin. Her marriage to another man changed Burckhardt’s perception of marriage. Probably, as he had once stated, experience had made him wiser. His perspectives about life made him an independent minded person who would not be compelled to do anything he did not deem important or necessary. Certainly, Jacob Burckhardt was the most famous renaissance historian whose ideas about life, art, literature and culture offered amazing insights to the world.