Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Nicholas Scott Baker

Nicholas Scott BakerSenior Lecturer 

PhD Northwestern University
BA (Hons), MA University of Melbourne

Office: AHH, Level 2, South Wing.
Tel. +61 2 9850 8856
Fax +61 2 9850 6064


Nicholas Baker is a cultural and political historian of early modern Europe, with particular interests in Renaissance Italy, political and economic cultures, and the use of visual sources in historical research. He has published articles and chapters across a range of topics on sixteenth-century Italian history. His first book The Fruit of Liberty: Political Culture in the Florentine Renaissance, 1480-1550 was published by Harvard University Press in 2013. He has previously taught at the University of Melbourne in Australia, and at Northwestern University and Washington & Lee University in the United States. In 2013-14, he was the Jean-François Malle Fellow at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, Italy. He is currently a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, for the Spring term 2018. When not engaged in scholarship he devotes far more time than he should to following the fortunes of the Hawthorn Football Club in the AFL and the Chicago Bears in the NFL.


I am currently working on a cultural history of financial risk taking and thinking about the future in sixteenth-century Italy. This project explores understandings about the power of fortuna in human lives and ways these beliefs interacted with ideas about providence and human ability in the realms of commerce and gambling. I also continue to maintain an interest in and work on the political culture of Florence during the sixteenth century and cultural connections between the Medici court and the Spanish world.

Research Funding

2017-19 Australian Research Council Discovery Project, Project Title: In Fortune's Theatre: Culture's of Risk Taking in Renaissance Italy ($157,655)

2009 Renaissance Society of America/Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento Junior Scholar Research Grant

2009 Macquarie University New Staff Grant

2010-12 Macquarie Research Development Grant

2013-14 Jean-François Malle Fellow, Villa I Tatti

2014-15 Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation Grant for Venetian Studies

Selected Publications


After Civic Humanism: Learning and Politics in Renaissance Italy, ed. Nicholas Scott Baker and Brian Maxson Modern History_Book cover_N Baker ACH
(Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2015) 







The Fruit of Liberty: Political Culture in the Florentine Renaissance, 1480-1550 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013) 

In the middle decades of the sixteenth century, the republican city-state of Florence-birthplace of the Renaissance-failed. In its place the Medici family created a principality, Bookcover_NBaker becoming first dukes of Florence and then grand dukes of Tuscany. The Fruit of Liberty examines how this transition occurred from the perspective of the Florentine patricians who  had dominated and controlled the republic. The book analyzes the long, slow social and cultural transformations that predated, accompanied, and facilitated the institutional shift from republic to principality, from citizen to subject. More than a chronological narrative, this analysis covers a wide range of contributing factors to this transition, from attitudes toward office holding, clothing, and the patronage of artists and architects to notions of self, family, and gender. Using a wide variety of sources including private letters, diaries, and art works, Nicholas Baker explores how the language, images, and values of the republic were reconceptualized to aid the shift from citizen to subject. He argues that the creation of Medici principality did not occur by a radical break with the past but with the adoption and adaptation of the political culture of Renaissance republicanism.

"The Fruit of Liberty provocatively reinterprets the significance of Florentine political culture in the late Renaissance. By examining the apparently sharp contrast between republican and ducal Florence, Baker reveals that the Florentine experience helps to explain the triumph of post-Renaissance absolutism just as much as it contributed to the persistence of republican language and traditions."-Mark Jurdjevic, Glendon College, York University

"In a lucid and lively way, Baker has managed to reveal untold parts of what would seem to be a well-worn story. Rather than seeing a pronounced break between republic and principate in Renaissance Florence, Baker emphasizes continuity of language and images, as well as of office holders themselves, from the late fifteenth to the mid-sixteenth century."-Sharon Strocchia, Emory University

Articles and Book Chapters

"When Christ Was King in Florence: Religious Language and Political Paralysis During the Siege of Florence." In Languages of Power in Italy, 1300-1600, ed. Daniel Bornstein, Laura Gaffuri, and Brian Jeffrey Maxson. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2017)

"Dux ludens: Eleonora de Toledo, Cosimo I de' Medici, and Games of Chance in Ducal Household of Mid-Sixteenth-Century Florence." European History Quarterly 46, no. 4 (2016): 595-617.

"Deep Play in Renaissance Italy." In Rituals of Politics and Culture in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honour of Edward Muir, ed. Mark Jurdjevic and Rolf Strøm-Olsen (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2016): 259-281.

 "'Uno avulso, non deficit alter': Florence and the Medici, 1512-1574."/"'Uno avulso, non deficit alter': Florenz und die Medici 1512-1574." In Maniera: Pontormo, Bronzino, and Medici Florence/Maniera: Pontormo, Bronzino und das Florenz der Medici, ed. Bastian Eclercy (Munich: Prestel, 2016): 24-31 

"The Remembrance of Politics Past: Memory and Melancholia in Jacopo Nardi's Istorie della città di Firenze," in After Civic Humanism: Learning and Politics in Renaissance Italy, ed. Nicholas Scott Baker and Brian Maxson: 259-272 (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2015)

"Discursive Republicanism in Renaissance Florence: Deliberation and Representation in the Early Sixteenth Century." Past and Present no. 225 (November 2014): 47-77

"Medicean Metamorphoses: Carnival in Florence, 1513." Renaissance Studies 25, no. 4 (2011): 491-510

"Power and Passion in Sixteenth-Century Florence: The Sexual and Political Reputations of Alessandro and Cosimo I de' Medici." Journal of the History of Sexuality 19, n. 3 (2010): 432-57.

"For Reasons of State: Political Executions, Republicanism, and the Medici in Florence, 1480-1560." Renaissance Quarterly 62, no. 2 (2009): 444-78.

"Writing the Wrongs of the Past: Vengeance, Humanism, and the Assassination of Alessandro de' Medici." The Sixteenth Century Journal 38, no. 2 (2007): 307-27.

"The Death of a Heretic, Florence 1389." In Rituals, Images, and Words: The Varieties of Cultural Expression in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Edited by F.W. Kent and Charles Zika: 33-53. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2005).


MHIS121 After the Black Death: Early Modern Europe, 1348-1789
MHIS222 Pirates, Merchants, and Holy Warriors: The Early Modern Mediterranean
MHIS322 Culture and Power in Renaissance Europe

For more information about research, teaching and other scholarly activities go to Nicholas Baker's Research Hub profile at: