What is it about?

This article argues that in the late sixteenth century disputations, a staple of Renaissance universities since the Middle Ages, became a productive focus of new knowledge production both within and outside of the university context. This rise of public disputation in courts and piazzas mirrors the increase of litigation, disputation and duelling in Italian society, which, it has been argued, had the dubious merit of "inventing the duel". Settling matters through verbal and physical disputation was a cultural feature of late Renaissance Italy. This mode of knowledge production and knowledge dissemination, I argue, shaped the work and careers of important scientists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Galilei, and Cardano.

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Why is it important?

It argues that social factors shaped in important ways the mode with which scientific knowledge was produced, consumed and circulated. It argues that merit was not recognised through moneys or medals, but through concepts like honour and reputation. The language of academic duelling mirrored often that of physical duelling.


This article provides a cultural reading of the importance of disputation both within universities and in Renaissance courts and piazzas. It highlights how the modes of these debates were dictated by practices shared by other sectors of society. The article places emphasis on the fact that this mode of knowledge production remained dominant until the mid-seventeenth century, where other modes of production, focused on civility and collaboration, slowly replaced it.

monica azzolini
Universita degli Studi di Bologna

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This page is a summary of: There Were No Medals To Be Won, Nuncius, June 2019, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/18253911-03402005.
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