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Title: Knowledge and thinking in Renaissance Florence : a computer-assisted analysis of the diaries and commonplace books of Giovanni Rucellai and his contemporaries
Author: Toth, Gabor Mihaly
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis investigates cognition and knowledge in a rich selection of late medieval Florentine commonplace books (zibaldoni) and diaries (ricordanze) with a special focus on Giovanni Rucellai’s Zibaldone Quaresimale. In Chapter Two a new methodology, named Mental Model Framework in History (MMFH), is elaborated. By studying mental processes such as categorisation and decision making, MMFH enables us to study cognition in historical documents. The dissertation is based on a computer-assisted analysis described in Chapter Three . This has brought together a number of technologies (Natural Language Processing, Semantic Web, Text Encoding Initiative) and used them according to the interpretative goals of the MMFH. Chapter Four investigates the knowledge-constructing practice of late medieval Florentines, and concludes that commonplace books and diaries were tools of information management and knowledge transmission. The core chapters study four domains of thinking: space, time, agency and perception. Chapter Five analyses social recognition and judgement in Renaissance Florence and reveals how a new ethical thought took shape, one that prepared the transition to capitalism. By applying decision and game theory, Chapter Six examines horizontal friendship, a bond that functioned as an informal but risky social insurance in Florence. Chapter Seven studies how Florentines used superlatives to construct a hierarchy of the world, with Florence on the top. This was the manifestation of a fierce competition within and outside the walls of Florence, competition that strongly influenced the social and physical environment of the city. By studying selection, periodisation and causal reasoning, Chapter Eight pinpoints the gradual secularisation of the conception of time. The thesis concludes that the late medieval revolution in information culture marked by the gradual transition from an overwhelmingly oral culture to an increasingly literate culture produced quantitative and qualitative changes in human thought. This largely contributed to the birth of modern thought, and to the late medieval transformation of the social and physical environment.
Supervisor: Davidson, Nicholas Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Early Modern Britain and Europe ; Intellectual History ; Late antiquity and the Middle Ages ; digital humanities ; Florence ; renaissance ; commonplace book ; cognition ; history of knowledge