In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Italians endured the Black Death, climate change, banking collapse, chronic war, political turmoil and a Catholic Church in disarray. In the midst of these significant and overlapping crises, where did they turn for solutions? The humanities. As a curriculum of study, the humanities first emerged in the context of these crises. But more importantly, it emerged as a response to them. In this talk, Dr. Emily O’Brien will explore the many ways in which Renaissance Italian humanists served as first responders in an age of sustained crisis. They did so by translating a curriculum rich in history, rhetoric, moral philosophy, poetry into practical tools and innovative solutions for tackling the problems of their day. More than just a tour of Renaissance Italy, this story carries a critical message for us today as we face the challenges of Covid-19 and our other 21st-century crises: now more than ever, we need the humanities.