Short courses


Introduction to Renaissance Italy: The Galileo Affair

  • Wednesdays, 6pm to 8pm
  • 5 weeks
  • 27 Apr 2022


This online evening course examines the background to, and impact of, the trial of Galileo Galilei in 1633.

Galileo Galilei (1564 to 1642) is one of the most controversial figures to emerge from Italy in the early modern period. He’s arguably best known for his clash with the Church over the Copernican hypothesis (that the earth orbited the sun) which resulted in Galileo being put on trial in Rome in 1633.

On this course you'll learn about the central people and works of the debate between religion and astronomy, including Nicolaus Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543).

This course also provides an introduction to Italian Renaissance studies. By studying the works of fundamental figures of the Italian Renaissance, you'll learn about key strands of early modern thought.        

This course is run by the UCL Italian Department. It's part of the 'Made in Italy' series which offers a uniquely comprehensive approach to learning the about the culture and history of Italy.

Who this course is for

This course is for anyone who is curious or passionate about Italian culture.

You don’t need any previous knowledge of the subject. Basic knowledge of Italian would be beneficial but is not essential.

Course content

The course will consider the following topics:

  • The origins of the shift from the geocentric universe, with earth at its centre, to the heliocentric one, in which the earth became the third planet orbiting the sun
  • The intellectual impact of this cosmographical change, for example, how did the Catholic Church react to a perceived challenge to the authority of scripture?
  • Did the format in which ideas were presented, such as a dialogue, affect their reception?
  • What effect did the ‘Galileo Affair’ have on the relationship between science and religion?

Structure and teaching

Classes are held on Zoom on Wednesday evenings, from 6pm to 8pm (UK time), over five weeks in the summer term.

In each class, you'll:

  • listen to a lecture-style overview of the week’s topic or work
  • take part in a group discussion of the themes raised

To prepare for the discussion sessions, you'll need to read a series of extracts before each class (approximately 50 pages each week). All texts studied will be in English, or available in English translation.

You'll be sent details of the main texts and recommended editions when you register for the course.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this course, you'll have:

  • a thorough knowledge of the texts studied in the course
  • a greater understanding of the historical contexts in which ideas are developed, in particular those of the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution
  • developed the critical skills required to assess and analyse early modern texts
  • greater confidence in engaging in critical discussions of the topics covered

Course team

Andrew Campbell

Andrew Campbell

Andrew is a Lecturer (Teaching) in the Department of Italian at UCL. He teaches a variety of courses and language classes. His doctoral research focuses on the life and works of the Carmelite friar Paolo Antonio Foscarini (c. 1562 to 1616). His other research interests include the Renaissance disputation, encyclopedism, and weather forecasting in southern Italy at the turn of the 17th century.

Course information last modified: 11 Oct 2021, 08:47