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Leonardo Bruni

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Leonardo Bruni

Leonardo Bruni (1374 - 1444) was a leading humanist, historian and a chancellor of Florence. He has been called the first modern historian.

Contents

Biography

Bruni was the leading pupil of Coluccio Salutati and succeeded him as chancellor in 1410. Bruni's time in office was not as perilous a time for Florence as a few years earlier, but it was still very involved in long running warfare. Bruni did not lead the city to nearly the extent of his predecessor as first the Albizzi family and then the Medici family dominated the city during his time in office. He was succeeded in office by Carlo Marsuppini.

Significance

Leonardo Bruni's most notable work is History of the Florentine People which has been called the first modern history book. Bruni was the first historian to write about the three period view of history: Antiquity, Middle Age and Modern. The term Middle Age was first coined by a contemporary Flavio Biondo. The dates he uses to define the periods are not exactly what modern historians use today, but he laid the conceptual groundwork for a tripartite division of history. While it probably was not Bruni's intention to secularize history, the three period view of history is unquestionably secular and for that Bruni has been called the first modern historian. The foundation of Bruni's conception can be found with Petrarch who had first written, a generation earlier, about a Dark Age covering the period from the time of the fall of Rome extending to the time of Petrarch. It was Bruni and his fellow humanists who believed they had reached the end of the Dark Age and were entering a modern period, and thus logically called the intervening period a Middle Age.

It was Brunni who used the phrase studia humanitatis, meaning the study of human endevours versus those of theology and metaphysics, which is where the term humanists comes from.

As a humanist Bruni was essential in translating many works of Plato and Aristotle. His use of Tacitus's Histories to buttress his republican theses in the Panegyric to the City of Florence (c. 1403) was instrumental in bringing the Roman historian to the attention of Renaissance political philosophers (see Tacitean studies for details).

Bibliography

  • History of the Florentine People, Latin text and English translation, 2001 - ISBN 0-674-00506-6

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