Hans Baron

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Hans Baron (June 22, 1900 – November 26, 1988)[1] was a German-American historian of political thought and literature. His main contribution to the historiography of the period was to introduce in 1928 the term civic humanism (denoting most if not all of the content of classical republicanism).[2]

Life and career[edit]

Born in Berlin of a Jewish family, Baron was a student of the liberal Protestant theologian Ernst Troeltsch.[3] After Hitler's rise to power in 1933, he left Germany, first for Italy and England, then in 1938 for the United States. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1945.[4] He was employed as a librarian and served as Research Fellow and Bibliographer at the Newberry Library from 1949 to 1965 and was a Distinguished Research Fellow at Newberry until 1970, when he retired.[5] He also held a teaching appointment at the University of Chicago for many years. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1964.[6]

His most important work, The Crisis of the Early Italian Renaissance (1955), theorized that a threatened invasion of the Florentine city-state by Giangaleazzo Visconti of Milan had a dramatic effect on their conception of the directionality of history. Previously believing that good necessarily prevailed, upon considering the thought-to-be impending doom of the Florentine republic at the hands of Milan, some Florentine thinkers began to think otherwise. Baron theorized that it was this shift in understanding that allowed later thinkers like Niccolò Machiavelli to construct his view that free states required a politically realistic outlook in order to survive.


  • Calvin Staatsanschauung und das konfessionalle Zeitalter (Berlin; Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 1924).
  • Leonardo Bruni Aretino. Humanistisch-philosophische Schriftten (Leipzig; Berlin: B.G. Teubner, 1928; 1969).
  • The Crisis of the Early Italian Renaissance: civic humanism and republican liberty in an age of classicism and tyranny (Princeton: 1955; 1966).
  • Humanistic and Political Literature in Florence and Venice at the beginning of the quattrocento; studies in criticism and chronology (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1955; 1968).
  • Fifteenth-century civilisation and the Renaissance in New Cambridge Modern History, vol. 1 The Renaissance, 1493–1520 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1957)
  • From Petrarch to Bruni; studies in humanistic and political literature (Chicago: 1968).
  • Petrarch’s Secretum: its making and its meaning (Cambridge, Mass.: Medieval Academy of America, 1985).
  • In Search of Florentine Civic Humanism : essays on the transition from medieval to modern thought, 2 vols. (Princeton: 1988).


  1. ^ "Hans Baron". Social Security Death Index. New Historic Genealogical Society. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  2. ^ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Anthony Grafton, New York Review of Books: "In the 1920s and 1930s, Hans Baron, a brilliant German Jewish scholar, decided that the young Latinists of fifteenth-century Florence—above all Leonardo Bruni, the city's longtime chancellor—had created an intellectual movement, one that he eventually christened 'civic humanism.' These moderns, he argued, sought to revive not only classical texts, but classical values as well. They held that the best way to emulate the ancients, and the highest form of human achievement, was to lead an active life of republican citizenship."
  3. ^ Georg G. Iggers, "Refugee Historians from Nazi Germany," p. 10.
  4. ^ "Hans Baron". U.S. Naturalization Records Indexes, 1794-1995. Ancestry.com. Retrieved May 17, 2011. Name: Hans Baron; Age: 45; Birth Date: 22 Jun 1900; Issue Date: 29 Jan 1945; State: Massachusetts; Locality, Court: District of Massachusetts, District Court(subscription required)
  5. ^ "Hans Baron, Renaissance Historian". chicagotribune.com. Chicago Tribune. December 4, 1988. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  6. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved May 17, 2011.


  • Boyd, Kelly, ed. Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writers (Rutledge, 1999) 1:74–75
  • Wallace K. Ferguson, "The Interpretation of Italian Humanism: the Contribution of Hans Baron," Journal of the History of Ideas 19 (1958), 14–25. Baron's reply immediately follows.
  • Anthony Molho and John A. Teseschi, eds. Renaissance Studies in Honor of Hans Baron (DeKalb, Ill.: Northern Illinois Univ. Press, 1971).
  • Alison Brown, "Hans Baron's Renaissance," Historical Journal 33 (1990), 441–48.
  • Donald R. Kelley, Renaissance Humanism (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1991).
  • Riccardo Fubini, "Renaissance Historian: the Career of Hans Baron," Journal of Modern History 64 (1992), 541–74.
  • James Hankins, "The 'Baron Thesis' after Forty Years and some Recent Studies of Leonardo Bruni," Journal of the History of Ideas 56,2 (Apr. 1995), 309–30.
  • Hankins, ed. Renaissance Civic Humanism : reappraisals and reflections (Cambridge: 2000).
  • Ronald Witt, John M. Najemy, Craig Kallendorf, and Werner Gundersheimer, "AHR Forum: Hans Baron's Renaissance Humanism," American Historical Review 101,1 (Feb. 1996), 107–44.

External links[edit]