Based on the study of over 500 surviving manuscript school books, this comprehensive study of the curriculum of school education in medieval and Renaissance Italy contains some surprising conclusions. Robert Black's analysis finds that continuity and conservatism, not innovation, characterize medieval and Renaissance teaching. The study of classical texts in medieval Italian schools reached its height in the twelfth century; this was followed by a collapse in the thirteenth century, an effect on school teaching of the growth of university education. This collapse was only gradually reversed in the two centuries that followed: it was not until the later 1400s that humanists began to have a significant impact on education. Scholars of European history, of Renaissance studies, and of the history of education will find that this deeply researched and broad-ranging book challenges much inherited wisdom about education, humanism and the history of ideas.

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