To Venice with a Student Mission; YOUR HONOUR Italian Renaissance Specialist Professor Michael Edward Mallett Runs Unique Teaching Projects and Has Been Awarded an OBE

The Birmingham Post (England), September 26, 1998 | Go to article overview

To Venice with a Student Mission; YOUR HONOUR Italian Renaissance Specialist Professor Michael Edward Mallett Runs Unique Teaching Projects and Has Been Awarded an OBE


When Professor Michael Edward Mallett, who teaches late medieval and early modern European history at the University of Warwick, was awarded an OBE in this year's Queen's Birthdays Honours it was for his "services to the History of the Italian Renaissanc e". But what does this mean?

The high point of the Italian Renaissance took place in the late part of the 15th century. Then, Italy was not the country we know today. It consisted of five regional states, among them Florence, Venice and Milan, which grew from city states to regional states. These states were incredibly rich at that time. Their annual budgets were larger than those of France and England, for example. This wealth resulted, among other things, in a wealth of great artistic achievements. This was the time of Leonardo d a Vinci, Botticelli and Michelangelo. It was also a time of turmoil as the regional states looked to expand their territories, and plotted against each other. It was the time when Machiavelli was advisor to the ruling family in Florence, the Medici.

Eventually, the good times ended, when Italy was invaded first by the French and later the Spanish.

By way of guessing why he received the award, Dr Mallett points to the unique way they teach the history of the Italian Renaissance at Warwick. Ever since the first batch of history students at Warwick reached the Italian Renaissance period, in the autum n term of 1967, they have set out for Venice, to study the topic, "in situ" as Dr Mallett puts it. And Dr Mallett has accompanied them every time, and has run this programme himself since 1970.

"In terms of history teaching, it's a unique operation," he says. Since 1967, it has grown, adding MA and PhD programmes, as well as being joined by Warwick's History of Art department. The number of students going to Venice is now 75, compared to the 30 who set out originally.

And it is not only the students and staff from Warwick who benefit from the operation.

According to Dr Mallett, the programme also means a lot to the city of Venice. "Venice is a city everyone is concerned about," he explains. "It has a lot of problems, not only with flooding. It is suffering from a social decline. In the 1960s the populat ion was around 150,000. …

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