Gene Brucker, the Shepard Professor of History Emeritus at UC Berkeley, who is credited with launching a new approach to the Florentine Renaissance, died on July 9 while in hospice care in Emeryville, California. He was 92.
While previous scholars had largely relied on chronicles, historical narratives and literary works, Brucker explored the day-to-day affairs of Florence and the Florentines. He drew heavily on the city’s almost unparalleled archives containing the deliberations of city magistrates, notarial copies of testaments and property transactions, records of religious institutions, judicial proceedings, diplomatic correspondence, and the private letters, journals and tax declarations of 14th- and 15th-century Florence citizens.
“Documents that others might have passed over as routine or dry-as-dust Brucker mined with an unerring eye for discovery and the utter concentration demanded by vast series of documents, the mere contemplation of which would have struck terror in other hearts,” said colleague Randolph Starn, a UC Berkeley history professor emeritus.
In two major books, Florentine Society and Politics, 1343-1378 (Princeton University Press, 1962) and The Civic World of Renaissance Florence (Princeton University Press, 1977) Brucker wrote what remains the most detailed account of how late medieval Florence, a commercial city divided by factional and class strife, became the political, economic and cultural powerhouse of the Renaissance.