Alexander Lee

Dr Alexander Lee

Dr. Alexander Lee is a lecturer in early-modern history at St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford and a fellow in the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick.

A specialist in the history of the Italian Renaissance, he completed his first two degrees at Trinity College, University of Cambridge – where he was a senior scholar, and won the Earl of Derby Prize for Outstanding Performance in the Tripos Examinations, the James Webb Prize for the History of Ideas, and the Bowen Prize for History – before proceeding to undertake his doctoral research at the University of Edinburgh. He has previously held academic positions at the Università degli studi di Bergamo and the Université du Luxembourg.

His book, THE UGLY RENAISSANCE: Sex, Disease and Excess in an Age of Beauty (London: Hutchinson, 2013; New York: Doubleday, 2014) – which was named “Book of the Year 2013” in the Times Literary Supplement by Felipe Fernandez Armesto – is a fast-paced and counter-intuitive portrait of the seedy social world behind the art of the Renaissance that challenges fondly-held preconceptions of the period as an age of rarefied culture and beauty. He is also the author of Petrarch and St. Augustine: Classical Scholarship, Christian Theology, and the Origins of the Renaissance in Italy (Leiden: Brill, 2012), the editor of Renaissance? Perceptions of Continuity and Discontinuity, c.1300-c.1550 (Leiden: Brill, 2010), and the co-author of The End of Politics: Triangulation, Realignment and the Battle for the Centre Ground (London: Politico’s, 2006).

Alexander’s book HUMANISM AND EMPIRE was published by Oxford University Press in May 2018. This ground-breaking study offers a striking challenge to existing interpretations of early Renaissance political thought, and brings to light the hidden harmonies between the ‘republicanism’ of the Italian communes and the imperial ideal in the thought of fourteenth-humanists.

Currently, Alexander is working on MACHIAVELLI. Published by Macmillan, this is a comprehensively authoritative and highly original portrait of one of history’s most unjustly maligned characters that casts its subject not as the sinister genius he is commonly thought to be, but as an infinitely sympathetic figure prone to political missteps, professional failures, and wickedly amusing personal dramas.

Alexander has written extensively on historical subjects for History Today and The Daily, and has contributed pieces on Italian art, culture, and society to the Sunday Telegraph, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Times Literary Supplement, and Dissent. He has also made numerous appearances on television and radio, and speaks regularly on Italian subjects at literary festivals.

Times Literary Supplement ‘BOOK OF THE YEAR 2013’
‘Alexander Lee’s fascinating new book…explore[s] the dualities of creative brilliance and human baseness with a mastery of sources and a popular touch that vividly brings the whole period to life.’
– The Spectator
‘[E]ffortlessly combining scholarly depth with a highly accessible style and presenting many of the best-known (as well as some of the least known) figures and artworks from the Renaissance in an unexpected and multifaceted light…Lee has given us a Renaissance that is…uglier, but infinitely more interesting.’
– New Humanist
‘[A] highly successful…highly readable account of the relationship between high art and “sex, scandal and suffering” that arguably characterised Italian society.”
– BBC History Magazine
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‘[I]ntellectually rich and with an unusually subtle feel for scholarly argument’
– Prof. Han van Ruler, Erasmus University, Rotterdam
‘This book is…ambitious, well-written, and thoughtful…a richly-documented, synthetic, and persuasive analysis.’
– Prof. Meredith J. Gill, University of Maryland, Renaissance Quarterly
“Lee’s work is thoughtful and…insightful… [A] valuable contribution to our understanding of Petrarch and his place in Renaissance humanism.”
– Prof. Bruce McNair, Neo-Latin News
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‘Time invested in reading The End of Politics will be time well spent…Every page has something worth reading.’
– Lord Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
‘Readable and profound.’
– Matthew Parris
‘This book is a timely study of what is happening in British politics today, and a…timely reminder of the ideas and values we need to rediscover.’
– Lord Chris Smith