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Renaissance and Reformation Venice
Margaret L. King
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 November 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0023


The city of Venice was unique in European history: an independent republic that endured for more than one thousand years, from the 8th to the 18th century. It was a commercial powerhouse, a laboratory of political systems, an exemplar of social cohesion, a principal contributor (along with Florence and Rome) to the culture of the Renaissance, and above all, an entity severed from the mainland, a creature of the sea, and the single most important intermediary between Europe and the regions of the eastern Mediterranean, especially Byzantine and Islamic countries. The city understood itself as unique, as much as we do, almost from the beginning of its rise to prominence during the 12th century. In chronicles and treatises, in the arts and literature, and in distinctive civic and religious rituals, its advocates portrayed the city as exceptional in achievement, capacity, and moral stature, constructing what has come to be known as the “myth of Venice.” For these reasons, scholars have returned often to consider again the principal features of the Venetian phenomenon in every century since its rise, resulting in a complex historiographical tradition. This article maps out major resources and categories of investigation for Venice proper, not the larger Veneto region, and confines itself to printed materials, without citing manuscripts.

General Overviews

Although scholars began to record the history of Venice while the Republic still existed, and several multivolume histories appeared during the 19th century, the focus here is on the study of Venice since World War II, and especially in the most recent decades. Many valuable contributions have appeared in collections of studies, sometimes the product of conferences held in Venice on a stated topic, and these should not be neglected in favor of single- or dual-authored works.

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