Sarah Bakewell: Petrarch and Boccaccio (1348*)

Today the bestselling and prize-winning author Sarah Bakewell takes us back to the mid-fourteenth century. This was a time of great hardship when politics was violently fractured and when the plague was ripping across Europe. But at this singular moment in Western history two figures of genius, Petrarch and Boccaccio, started their pioneering literary work. In doing so they became, as Bakewell explains, ‘the first of the great literary humanists’. This is the starting point of Sarah Bakewell’s new book, Humanly Possible, a broad and sweeping history of humanism. In this episode she takes us back to these uncertain first moments, when first Petrarch and then Boccaccio started to hunt for ancient manuscripts and to distil their learning into ambitious literary works of their own. Sarah Bakewell’s new book is Humanly Possible: Seven Hundred Years of Humanist Freethinking*, Enquiry and Hope. It will be published next week. *In homage to this freethinking, we’ve given Sarah a little more leeway (three years instead of the usual one) than usual this week. For more, as ever, visit our website: Show notes Scene One: 1348. Parma.  The Black Death spreads around the Italian peninsula as well as much of the rest of Europe. The writer Francesco Petrarch, living in Parma, does not catch it, but many of his friends die, including "Laura", the woman who inspired many of his most beautiful love sonnets. Scene Two: 1349. Parma, Padua and Florence.  This first outbreak of the disease recedes (though not for long).  Driven by a pervasive sense of loss, Petrarch - now mostly living in Padua - starts gathering copies of the letters he had written to friends over the years.  Scene Three: 1350. Florence. Petrarch and Boccaccio meet. Petrarch is passing through Florence, visiting the city of his exiled family's origins for the first time in his life. Memento: A cutting from one of Petrarch experiments with one his laurel bushes. People/Social Presenter: Peter Moore Guest: Sarah Bakewell Production: Maria Nolan Podcast partner: Ace Cultural Tours Theme music: ‘Love Token’ from the album ‘This Is Us’ By Slava and Leonard Grigoryan Follow us on Twitter: @tttpodcast_ See where 1348 fits on our Timeline

Om Podcasten

In each episode we ask a leading historian, novelist or public figure the tantalising question, "If you could travel back through time, which year would you visit?" Once they have made their choice, then they guide us through that year in three telling scenes. We have visited Pompeii in 79AD, Jerusalem in 1187, the Tower of London in 1483, Colonial America in 1776, 10 Downing Street in 1940 and the Moon in 1969. Chosen as one of the Evening Standard's Best History Podcasts of 2020. Presented weekly by Sunday Times bestselling writer Peter Moore, award-winning historian Violet Moller and Artemis Irvine.