This course introduces and explores Italian Renaissance history through the writings of Niccolò Machiavelli (died 1527) and Baldassare Castiglione (died 1529), and recent scholarship in social, cultural, intellectual, and political history. Machiavelli shocked the world with his reality-based political advice: better to be feared than loved, the ends justifying the means, total war, and the reduction of virtue to success without moral content. But he also wrote a history of Florence and a famous play, both featuring female protagonists and raising key historical problems. Castiglione’s Courtier (1528) taught generations of Europeans how to behave in public and how to have success at court. It is a compendium of the major themes of the Renaissance: appearance vs reality, Platonic love and beauty, the nature of virtue and whether nobility is based on birth or merit, gender and the role of women.