The study of history was central to Renaissance learning both explicitly and implicitly—both as an ancient “art” raised to the level of a modern “science” and as a repository of cultural memory and instruction. My purpose here is to explore more specifically the way in which “history,” without losing its more general meaning (narrative description), came also to signify a particular mode of thought, or at least a way of organizing human experience, behavior, and learning in order to assert, to accommodate, or to change, contemporary priorities and values. In various ways the medieval Studium was transformed from a hierarchy into a historical process—from a structure into an adventure.1 The idea not of a ladder but rather of the advancement of learning illustrates what may be regarded as a historical recasting of the the classification of sciences, analogous to the “temporalizing” of the Great Chain of Being traced by Arthur O. Lovejoy more than half a century ago.2 The road from Vincent of Beauvais’s Speculum maior to Diderot’s Encyclopédie is hardly straight, but from our perspective the growing prominence of historical perspective and the idea of cultural progress seem undeniable.


Intellectual History Human Spirit Christian Doctrine Human Idea German Tradition 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1991

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  • Donald R. Kelley

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