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Department of History

College of Arts & Sciences

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Brian J. Maxson Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Department of History
423-439-6698 /
Rogers-Stout 206





B.A., 2002, Michigan State University
M.A., 2003, Northwestern University
Ph.D., 2008, Northwestern University

About Dr. Maxson:

Dr. Maxson's research focuses on the political, social, and cultural history of premodern Europe, particularly Italy. His first monograph, The Humanist World of Renaissance Florence, 1400-1480 was released by Cambridge University Press in early 2014. The book examines the learned interests of hundreds of so-called amateur humanists in Renaissance Florence and, using a case study of Florentine diplomats, argues that demands of political and social rituals motivated the spread, form, and success of the humanist movement. Dr. Maxson has also published numerous articles in venues including I Tatti Studies, Archivio Storico Italiano, Renaissance Studies, and others. He has held fellowships most recently from Villa I Tatti (the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies), the Marco Institute at the University of Tennessee, and the Research and Development Council at ETSU. He was a recipient of the College of Arts and Sciences award for Distinguished Research for the 2013-14 academic year. Dr. Maxson keeps an updated profile on (

Areas of Academic Specialty

Europe between 1050 and 1700
Political, diplomatic, cultural, and social history Italy

Selected Publications:


 maxson book

 Languages of Power in Italy (1300-1600)

The essays in this collection explore the languages – artistic, symbolic, and ritual, as well as written and spoken – in which power was articulated, challenged, contested, and defended in Italian cities and courts, villages, and countryside, between 1300 and 1600. Topics addressed include court ceremonial, gossip and insult, the performance of sanctity and public devotions, the appropriation and reuse of imagery, and the calculated invocation (and sometimes undermining) of authoritative models and figures. The collection balances a broad geographic and chronological range with a tight thematic focus, allowing the individual contributions to engage in vigorous and fruitful debate with one another even as they speak to some of the central issues in current scholarship. The authors recognize that every institutional action is, in its context, a political act, and that no institution operates disinterestedly. At the same time, they insist on the inadequacy of traditional models, whether Marxian or Weberian, as the complex realities of the early modern state pose tough problems for any narrative of modernization, rationalization, and centralization.

maxson book

After Civic Humanism: New Approaches to Politics and Learning in Renaissance Italy

The thirteen essays in this volume demonstrate the multiplicity of connections between learning and politics in Renaissance Italy. Some engage explicitly with Hans Baron's "civic humanism" thesis illustrating its continuing viability, but also stretching its application to prove the limitations of its original expression. Others move beyond Baron's thesis to examine the actual practice of various individuals and groups engaged in both political and learned activities in a variety of diverse settings. The collective impression of all the contributions is that of a complex, ever-shifting mosaic of learned enterprises in which the well-examined civic paradigm emerges as just one of several modes that explain the interaction between learning and politics in Italy between 1300 and 1650. The model that emerges rejects any single category of explanation in favour of one that emphasizes variety and multiplicity. It suggests that learning was indispensible to all politics in Renaissance Italy and that, in fact, at its heart the Renaissance was a political event as much as a cultural movement.

 Maxson Book





 The Humanist World of Renaissance Florence

This book offers a major contribution for understanding the spread and appeal of the humanist movement in Renaissance Florence. Investigating the connections between the individuals who were part of the humanist movement, Brian Jeffrey Maxson reconstructs the networks that bound them together. Overturning the problematic categorization of humanists as either professional or amateurs, a distinction based on economics and the production of original works in Latin, he offers a new way of understanding how the humanist movement could incorporate so many who were illiterate in Latin, but who nonetheless were responsible for an important intellectual and cultural paradigm shift. The book demonstrates the massive appeal of the humanist movement across socio-economic and political groups and argues that the movement became so successful and so widespread because by the 1420s¬-30s the demands of common rituals began requiring humanist speeches. Over time, deep humanist learning became more valuable in the marketplace of social capital, which raised the status of the most learned humanists and helped disseminate humanist ideas beyond Florence.  




“Florence, Pius II, and Jacopo Piccinino in 1458: A Case-Study of Gifts and Status in Diplomacy,” in Languages of Power in Italy, 1300-1600, eds. Daniel Bornstein, Laura Gaffuri, and Brian Jeffrey Maxson (Turnhout: Brepols Publishing, 2017).

“Diplomatic Oratory,” in Italian Renaissance Diplomacy: Texts in Translation (1350-1520),edited by Isabella Lazzarini and Monica Azzolini (Toronto: University of Toronto Press Press, 2017).

“Giannozzo Manetti’s Oratio in funere Iannotii Pandolfini: Art, Humanism and Politics inFifteenth-Century Florence,” text by Brian Jeffrey Maxson, with edition of Latin texts by Stefano U. Baldassarri, Interpres 34 (2016): 79-142.

“The Lost Oral Performance: Giannozzo Manetti and Spoken Oratory in Venice in 1448,” in Voices and Texts in Early Modern Italian Society (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2016), 84-96.

“The Certame Coronario as Performative Ritual,” in Rituals of Politics and Culture in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honour of Edward Muir, edited by Mark Jurdjevic and Rolf Strøm, pp. 137-63. Toronto: CRRS, 2016.

"The 'Schemes' of Piero de' Pazzi," coauthored with Oren Margolis. Journal of Medieval History (forthcoming in December 2015).

"The Ritual of Command: Humanism, Magic, and Liberty in Fifteenth-Century Florence," in After Civic Humanism, edited by Nicholas Scott Baker and Brian Jeffrey Maxson, 113-129. Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2015.

"Introduction" in After Civic Humanism, co-written with Nicholas Scott Baker, 15-30. Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2015.

"Claiming Byzantium: Papal Diplomacy, Biondo Flavio, and the Fourth Crusade," Studi Veneziani 68 (2013): 31-59 (published in 2015).

"Giannozzo Manetti, the King, and the Emperor" text by Brian Jeffrey Maxson, with textual edition by Stefano Baldassarri, Archivio Storico Italiano 177, no. 3 (2014): 513-69.

"Integration and Synergy of Research and Graduate Education in Science, Social Science, and the Humanities," coauthored with Drs. Cecilia McIntosh and Karin Bartoszuk, Critical Conversations: An Interdisciplinary Journal 1 (2014): 70-92.

"'This Sort of Men': the Vernacular and the Humanist Movement in Fifteenth-Century Florence," I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance 16, no. 1/2 (Fall 2013): 257-271.

"Tester: A Story of Class, Academia, Punk Rock, and Generation X," in Generation X Professors Speak: Voices from Academia, ed. Elwood Watson, Marc Shaw, and John Kille (Meutchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 2013), 19-39 (written under the name "Malcolm Franklin")

"Establishing Independence: Ritual, Empire, and Leonardo Bruni's History of the Florentine People," in Foundation, Dedication and Consecration Rituals in Early Modern Culture, ed. Maarten Delbeke, Jan de Jong, and Minou Schraven, 79-98 (Leiden: Brill, 2012).

"The Many Shades of Praise: Politics and Panegyrics in Fifteenth-Century Florentine Diplomacy," in Rhetorik in Mittelalter und Renaissance: Konzepte – Praxis – Diversität, ed. Georg Strack and Julia Knödler, 393-412 (Munich: Herbert Utz Verlag, 2011).

"Kings and Tyrants: Leonardo Bruni's translation of Xenophon's Hiero," Renaissance Studies 24, no. 2 (April 2010): 188-206.



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