Italy in many of its aspects can be considered to be a laboratory of Western modernity. The peninsula had a leading role in Western affairs during Antiquity and the Middle Ages, but this role was lost by the end of the fifteenth century. During the modern age, however, Italy continued to provide a central point of reference in the European mind. This course focuses attention on the cultural, social and political developments in Italian history in their European context since the Renaissance. Themes include the struggles over national identity in the absence of a unified nation state, the differing regions and competing centers, the interplay of culture and politics, the discussions of the nature of law and of legitimacy, and the relation between religion and politics.