Topic: Ancient to the Modern World Depth Study 4: Renaissance Italy

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Stage 4 | History Program

TOPIC: Ancient to the Modern World

Depth Study 4: Renaissance Italy

Stage 4

Year 8


6 weeks


20 lessons

Historical Context of the Overview -

Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, the spread of Christianity and Islam, through to the development of Medieval Europe, this period saw the rise of Renaissance Italy. With the impact of the Crusades and the growth of exploration, Italy was uniquely placed to benefit from the spread of new, and rediscovery of old, ideas. This period saw developments in art, science, religion, politics and education and set the standard for the early Modern period.

Key Inquiry Questions

Focus Historical Skills

  • How did Renaissance Italy change over time to the beginning of the modern age?

  • What key beliefs and values emerged and how did they influence Renaissance Italy?

  • What were the causes and effects of contact between societies in this period?

  • Which significant people, groups and ideas from this period have influenced the world today?

  • Comprehension: chronology, terms and concepts

  • Analysis and use of sources

  • Perspectives and interpretations

  • Empathetic understanding

  • Research

  • Explanation and communication

Framing Questions

  • What were the main changes that took place during the Renaissance? What emerged as the key defining features of the Italian Renaissance?

  • To what extent was Italy destined to be the birthplace of the Renaissance? What was the significance of the Renaissance?

  • Is the Renaissance overrated?

Outcomes -

Focus Historical Concepts

A student:

  • Describes and assesses the motives and actions of past individuals and groups in the context of past societies HT4-3

  • Identifies the meaning, purpose and context of historical sources HT4-5

  • Identifies and describes different contexts, perspectives and interpretations of the past HT4-7

  • Locates, selects and organises information from sources to develop an historical inquiry HT4-8

  • Uses a range of historical terms and concepts when communicating an understanding of the past HT4-9

  • Selects and uses appropriate oral, written, visual and digital forms to communicate about the past HT4-10

  • Continuity and change: Consider the changing nature of the Renaissance and its impact on Italy and Europe. Was it really so different from the Medieval Period?

  • Cause and effect: What were the causes of the Renaissance, most particularly in Italy, and the flow on effects of the Renaissance across Europe.

  • Perspectives: The differing perspectives of the religious, the artists, the scientists, the politicians, the traders and explorers

  • Empathetic Understanding: Understanding the significant changes brought about by the Renaissance in religion, culture, politics and how these affected a range of peoples

  • Significance: Consider the range of significant discoveries from the Renaissance: medicine, politics, art, architecture, science

  • Contestability: Did the Renaissance have to begin in Italy? Is it overrated in terms of its significance?

Historical Language

  • Age of Exploration

  • City-state

  • Classicism

  • Counter-reformation

  • Golden Age

  • Guild

  • Heresy

  • Hieratic Scale

  • Humanism

  • Imperialism

  • Papal Bull

  • Patron/Patronage

  • Perspective

  • Reformation

  • Renaissance

  • Sack of Rome

  • Sonnet

  • Thalassocracy

  • Vanishing Point

Site Study

This is a site developed by Oxford University Press in association with the National Gallery of Art in Great Britain. It would be appropriate for higher ability students

This is a Google Trek which includes tours of specific sites in Venice and on overview

Online Clips –

  • Khan Academy – Renaissance:

  • Crash Course History – The Renaissance, Was it a Thing?:

  • Engineering and Empire: Da Vinci’s World:

  • The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance:

  • Khan Academy: High Renaissance Art:

Assessment overview

Ancient to the Modern World

The Renaissance

Semester 2

Term 3, Week 5

Assessment for learning

Assessment as learning

Assessment of learning

  • Literacy: Paragraph writing

  • Source Analysis: Black Death, Humanism

  • Critical viewing: The Medici Godfathers

  • Empathy: Marco Polo

  • Critical/Creating Thinking & Oral: Personalities

  • Investigation: Lucrezia Borgia

  • Extended Response: Impact of Renaissance

  • Google Drive Presentation: Everyday Life

  • Google Cultural institute: Gallery

  • Reflection: Venice Trek

  • Research: Venetian Trade

Weighting: 25%

Description of Task: Students assume a persona from the time period and discuss the Renaissance as a Golden Age in history. They are to present their empathy as a digital narrative.

Outcomes: HT4-3, HT4-7, HT4-8, HT4-9, HT4-10


Research Task

Oral Presentation

Group Presentation

Inquiry Learning

Source Analysis

Essay/ Structured Responses

Marco Polo Research

Individual Trading Cards

Daily life in Renaissance Italy

Google Cultural Institute

Pinterest - Venice

Lucrezia Borgia

Impact of the Renaissance


Empathy task on significant individual and their role during the Renaissance – ICT task


Teaching and learning strategies - including opportunities for extension activities & adjustments



Background – Fall of Rome & the Middle Ages (1 lesson)

Teacher Exposition & Brainstorm: What do we know?

Support with Overview worksheet (see resources)

Literacy: Glossary

Overview Worksheet:

The way of life in Renaissance Italy (social, cultural, economic and political features) and the roles and relationships of different groups in society (ACDSEH010)


  • Explain why this period is known as the Renaissance

  • Identify on a map the city-states of Italy during this period

  • Describe the everyday life of men, women and children in Renaissance Italy

  • Describe key economic and political features of Renaissance Italy

Origins of the Renaissance (3-4 lessons)

Teacher exposition: “Renaissance” from French renaissance, from re- 'back, again' +naissance 'birth' (from Latin nascentia, from nasci 'be born'). Essentially, “Rebirth”.

Class discussion:

  • What does this mean, to be “reborn” in history & civilisation?

  • What does “civilisation” mean? – What does it sound like? Look like? What can we connect it to?

  • What was Italy like before the Renaissance?

Roman Empire/Classicism…ruins reminded it of its former glory, held knowledge of the past.

Show pictures of classical architecture of Greece and Rome eg Temple of Vesta in Rome, Pantheon, Colosseum, Acropolis, and then pictures of Renaissance architecture: Tempietto di San Pietro in Montorio, St Peter’s Basilica, the Church of San Lorenzo.

  • How do we see echoes of the past? Are these copies or new interpretations?

Mapping: Examine a map of the Mediterranean and the countries surrounding it.

  • Which country is Italy?

  • What do they notice about its geographical position?

  • Why would this be an advantage?

(Centre of Mediterranean for sea trade, connected to mainland for land trade. Saw an increase in wealth and leisure time which saw the flourishing of the arts. Place of refuge for scholars after the Ottomans took Constantinople, bringing knowledge with them)

  • Examine a map of the Italian city states:

  • What do they notice about Italy?

  • What do “D. of” and “Rep. of” mean? What does this tell you about the nature of government in those states and throughout Italy? (Count to see how many of each?)

  • Compare/contrast with a map of modern Italy – what areas did Renaissance Italy control that they no longer do? Why might that be? What does this tell us about the extent of the power of Renaissance Italy?

  • Why/How would these city states cause the development of the Renaissance in Italy?

(Competition – city-states trying to assert their dominance, culture over others)

Mapping: Students use a blank map to draw in the city-states and their major centres including ports and trade centres. They should also include trade routes.


This site looks at everyday objects found inside Renaissance homes and where they came from

Research: the basis of wealth for each city-state including: Venice, Florence, Milan, Genoa, Siena

Literacy: Students write a paragraph explaining the origins of the Renaissance in Italy. (See Renaissance Origins Paragraph Writing worksheet)

Extension: What if the Renaissance had begun in _________? (eg Russia, Germany, China?)

Location & Origins:

(Good background reading on the rise of the Renaissance in Italy)

Everyday Life:

Life in Renaissance Italy (2 - 3 lessons)

Source Analysis: The Black Death in Florence (See Florentine Source Sheet)

Discussion: How would the Black Death have affected the birth of the Renaissance

Critical Viewing:

  • Engineering an Empire – DaVinci’s World

  • What impressions do they have about the importance of the Renaissance?

Have students mindmap their learning from the documentary


Create a presentation. One slide per group. (See GoogleDrive Guide)

Each slide should contain: Four main points of information, two primary sources (visual and written)

Students to research aspects of everyday life including –

  • Food

  • Festivals/Religion

  • Guilds

  • Women/Children/Family

  • Housing

  • Education

  • Clothing/Hair

Have students do mini-presentations on their slides to the class

Significant developments and/or cultural achievements that reflect the concentration of wealth and power in the city-states (ACDSEH056)


  • Using a range of sources, investigate and explain the importance of at least ONE of the following achievements of Renaissance Italy: painting, sculpture, architecture, science and technology, literature and humanist thinking

  • Describe how the patronage of wealthy families encouraged these developments and/or cultural achievements

Humanism (1 lesson)

Source Analysis: Examine the source by Vergelius the Elder (see The New Education Source Sheet).

What does this tell us about the ideas behind Humanism?

Teacher exposition:

Ideas of humanism, partial rejection of Catholicism (Heresy?), value of humanity, independent thinking

Video: Horrible Histories – The Renaissance Report

Discussion: Is Humanism still part of our education today?

Extension: Humanism was learning for the sake of learning. Is this still appropriate in today’s society? Have students look at job growth and consider whether we “learn to earn”.

Art (2 lessons)

Continuity and Change: Show students a range of art from the Medieval Period – a quick Google Image search should suffice.

What do they notice about:

  • The subject(s) and how they are presented

  • The colours, backgrounds

  • The perspective/size of people, buildings (Hieratic Scale)

Compare and contrast: Show students a range of art from the Renaissance –

What changes do they note? (Perspective, Vanishing Point)

Why might this be?

Brainstorm: How did such changes come about?

Students to mindmap possible reasons


Students construct an art gallery using Google Cultural Institute. They are to choose 6 paintings that represent the main features of Renaissance Art. They should annotate each painting, explaining why it is significant.

Also look at the range of works that DaVinci created: Was he a “Renaissance Man”?

Research: Students investigate the artists supported by patrons such as Lorenzo de Medici (“the Magnificent”) and find examples of their work. Use Google Street View to take a tour of the Uffizi Gallery

Critical Viewing: Students watch Episode 2 of Medici Godfathers of the Renaissance

Use worksheet/lesson from PBS:

ART: MacMillan History 8 The Ancient to the Modern World p139

Metropolitan Museum of Art – A Resource for Educators

Relationships between rulers and ruled in ONE Italian city-state (ACDSEH057)


  • Discuss the relationships between rulers and ruled in ONE Italian city-state, eg Pisa, Florence, Naples, Venice or Rome

Case Study: The Serene Republic of Venice (2 - 3 lessons)

Map: Use GoogleEarth to examine the layout of Venice. Online trek:


What can we deduce from Venice through the Google Trek? Think about:

  • Architecture

  • Urban planning

  • Technology/engineering

  • Religion

  • Government

Note that it is a group of islands within a marshy lagoon. How could Venice become such a powerful place?

  • Trade (Port city)

  • Relationship with Byzantine Empire

  • Acquisition of land through Croatia

Teacher Exposition: Use HTAV Venice Social Life/Myth of Venice PowerPoints (there are a number of these online) to outline social/political order

Government: Thalassocracy. Ruled by a Doge (Duke/Duce), with a secretive Council of Ten (The Signoria), and a Senate of 200 – 300. All had to be from respectable families (“The Book of Gold”). Religiously moderate (did not persecute anyone during Counter Reformation), but restrictive, particularly for Jews. Cosmopolitan. Quickly adopted the printing press

Research: Students investigate the range of Venetian products and trade (eg textiles, glass, salt, spices, shipbuilding etc) and ideas. Find examples/pictures of these and use Pinterest to create a visual gallery. (See Pinterest Help Guide)

NOTE: It is important for students to realise that it was more than just trade – with new products came new ideas and peoples. While there was apparent Venetian cosmopolitanism, this caused a growth in the elitist nature of Venetian society.

Class Discussion: What does the range of products/goods/ideas tell us about Venetian society?

Empathy: Students research the journey of Marco Polo through first playing this game:

Students are to choose two places along his journey (eg Hormuz, Kashgar, Shangdu) and find out what Marco Polo wrote about them. (

They are then to write a dialogue or letter responding to Marco’s descriptions from a Venetian perspective. Would they believe him? What would be their main interest?

Extension: Students investigate the historicity of Marco Polo’s claims – some say he never went to these places. Explore the truth of his works and travels.

Note: Alternate Case Studies of Florence and the Medici are available through: Jacaranda Retroactive 1 (online), Macmillan History 8 The Ancient to the Modern World, and Oxford Big Ideas History 8 OBook (Online)

Impact of Trade on Venetian Society:

Shopping the Renaissance: Consumerism in Renaissance Italy:

The role and achievements of significant individuals (ACDSEH058)


  • Investigate and assess the importance of significant individuals, eg Cesare Borgia, Lucrezia Borgia, Caterina Sforza, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Artemisia, Niccolo Machiavelli,Galileo Galilei

  • Use sources to identify different perspectives on the chosen individuals

Significant Individuals (2-3 lessons)

Critical/Creative Thinking: Students use ReadWriteThink Trading Card Creator to develop a trading card on one of the significant individuals.

Other individuals to add: Lorenzo de Medici, Giovanni Boccaccio, Isabella d'Este, Cosimo de Medici, Pope Alexander VI, Pope Sixtus IV, Filippo Brunelleschi, Pico Della Mirandola

Oral Task: Once the cards are complete & printed, students can work in groups to debate whose significant individual had the most impact. Winners from each group should then go up against each other for the class to decide on the most significant person from the Italian Renaissance.

Investigation: Lucrezia Borgia

  • Construct a timeline of her life (Use

  • Find out who her father was, her brothers, how many times she was married (and at what age). How would this have affected her? What does this tell us about her?

Source Analysis: Use the source sheet (Lucrezia Borgia Sources) and consider differing representations and interpretations of her.

Critical Viewing: Documentary on Lucrezia Borgia

Literacy: Write a response discussing their view on Lucrezia Borgia’s character – Victim? Good? Corrupt?

Extension: Students research Isabelle D’Este, Lucrezia’s sister-in-law. Have them develop a conversation between the two women regarding the role of women in Renaissance Italy.

Lucrezia Borgia: Family Tree

Biography Channel Documentary:

(NB: There are some discussions regarding the alleged incest)

The spread of Renaissance culture to the rest of Europe and its legacy (ACDSEH059)


  • Explain how ideas from Renaissance Italy spread to the rest of Europe and outline its legacy

Teacher Exposition: The decline of the Renaissance in Italy:

  • Increasing conflict in Italy – Causes?

  • Sack of Rome – Impact?

  • Reformation, Counter-Reformation & Heresy – Impact of rule of Rome, and thus Italy?

  • Changing trade routes exploration of the “New World” – Age of Exploration & growth of Imperialism – New trade routes to the Americas and Asia through Spain and Portugal. Effects on Italian trade? Use this timelime to examine the “New” Vs “Old” worlds and the impact

  • Closure of the eastern trade routes by the Ottoman Empire – Why?

  • Growth of unified nations, eg France, England – How? Effect on Italy (think size, power)

Cause and Effect: Students brainstorm what they know about :

  • Shakespeare – make connections through literature, art, Romeo & Juliet, Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, etc.

  • Reformation – have they heard of that? What do they know? Martin Luther & Papal Bull

  • How would the Renaissance spread from Italy to Germany, France and England?

Compare/Contrast: Paintings from Albrecht Durer, Jan van Eyck, Pieter Bruegel (the Elder) with those of the Italian painters – what are the differences, why?

Literacy: Students write a response to “Discuss the impact of the Italian Renaissance”

Extension: Students compare a Petrarch sonnet with one by Shakespeare


Students create a PMI (Plus/Minus/Interesting) on the Renaissance

Students consider – was it a “Golden Age” (go back to definition).

Think back to the Engineering and Empire Video – have their studies supported the greatness of the era?

Watch Crash Course – The Renaissance, Was it a Thing? (YouTube)

Do they agree that the Renaissance was a Golden Age? Think about the points raised by John Green – does one have to be aware of history happening for history to have happened?

Class Debate

The Renaissance – Was it a thing?

Divide students into groups:

  • Absolutely

  • Somewhat

  • Maybe

  • No Way

  • Judges

Students are given time to prepare, present, rebut and attack cases.

Student judges make the decision based on the evidence

Extension: Students create their own checklist for what constitutes a “Golden Age” and see how it compares with the Renaissance.


Differences between Northern and Italian Renaissance:

Flow Chart – Spread of Renaissance

Teaching and Learning Program Evaluation

Program or Unit Title: Class: Teacher:




  • Was the program well-structure and coherent?

  • To what extent did the program engage all students in the class?

  • Did the program assist all students to achieve the learning outcomes?

  • What improvements could be made?


  • Were the resources used appropriately in terms of age level, variety and the ability to engage the students?

  • What improvements could be made?


  • Did the program incorporate a range of quality, valid assessment tasks?

  • Reflect and comment on the level of student achievement in this program.

  • What improvements could be made to assist students to achieve the outcomes?

Date Commenced: Date Completed: Signature:

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