The University of Padua was one of Europe’s great centres of learning in the pre-modern period. Founded in 1222, it became known over the following century as a universitas scholarium, that is, a self-governing, legal corporation of scholars, and attracted many important intellectual figures including a number of humanists, the pioneers of the Renaissance revival.
In the late 15th and 16th centuries the university enjoyed its golden age. In this period Paduan medicine dominated the field in Europe. Through the work of its celebrated scholars it developed an outstanding reputation in the fields of science, mathematics, philosophy, jurisprudence and humanism. Padua was out and out a university city – the university was ‘the heart and soul’ of Padua, wrote one of its governors in 1547, and without it the city ‘would be a dead body’.
From its earliest days the university had attracted scholars from all over Europe, and during the Tudor period these included dozens of Englishmen: statesmen, soldiers, and ambassadors such as Francis Walsingham, Robert Bertie, and Henry Wotton; churchmen such as Cuthbert Tunstall and Reginald Pole; humanists such as Richard Pace; and physicians such as Thomas Linacre, John Caius, and William Harvey. Its magnetism for Englishmen in this period largely resulted from its cultural, academic, and intellectual excellence.
Padua and the Tudors addresses not only the question of why English students went to Padua and what they did there, but the more complex issues of cultural transmission and reception and of how their experiences impacted on Tudor life and thought. A more comprehensive study of the careers of the English scholars than has previously been attempted, it contains a biographical register which confirms the breadth of the foreign community in Padua and reveals the Paduan studium as something of a microcosm of European life. The book thus addresses the historically urgent question of how European a culture England’s was and became in the early modern period, and challenges some entrenched Anglo-Saxon assumptions about the Italian Renaissance. It also shows that through developments in medicine, humanist studies, law, and political thought, Padua influenced Tudor England in profound, enduring, and sometimes surprising ways.