Italian Culture, UMUC 334
18 September 2011
Mid-Term Essay Test
1a). Outline and explain the crises that occurred in the Late Middle Ages that would eventually lead Italian scholars to seek alternatives to a society they viewed as decayed, corrupt, and outmoded? Also begin your description by explaining why those crises differed with preceding centuries, characterized by a sense of place and of relative progress in the West? Provide some roundabout dates to place both the High Middle Ages and the Early Modern Era within context. There were radical changes in all areas of known societies that encompassed demographic collapse, political instabilities, and religious turmoil. The countries were literally sick, living in poverty, broken and broke by wars, and tired of being lead around their noblemen and/or religious leaders. Sick, broke and tired – three components for change! The East-West Schism of 1054 formally divided the State church of the Roman Empire into Eastern (Greek) and Western (Latin) branches, which later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. In 1071 AD, the Byzantine Empire (also known as the Eastern Roman Empire) lost most of Anatolia (known today as Turkey) to the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Manzikert. Coinciding with that timeline, the Abbasids (from 750-1258, they were [Uncle] Mohammed’s Muslim caliphate
who promoted commerce and the arts) lost control of pieces of the Islamic Empire to the Turks in the East, and to local rulers in Egypt, Spain and other locations. The collapse of these two ancient and strong empires forced European rulers to become more independent, and also allowed Europe to become stronger. (Wikipedia). Revolts in Italy were funded by Byzantium, which hoped to expel the Germans from Italy; this sponsorship was, like the invasion of the South, part of a twelfth-century Byzantine effort to regain the influence it had held on the peninsula during the reign of Justinian. (Justinian, a Roman Emperor [519-565], believed that as God's chosen emperor it was his duty to create one state, one church and one law. Roman law). (Ambrose). Meanwhile, the South and Sicily were invaded by Normans (Norse Viking descendants, of martial spirit and Christian piety), who eventually conquered what remained of the Byzantine holdings in mainland Italy along with the Arab possessions in Sicily. In the eleventh century, the Normans occupied the Lombard and Byzantine possessions in Southern Italy, ending the six century old presence of both powers in the peninsula. The independent city-states were also subdued. During the same century, the Normans also ended Muslim rule in Sicily. Norman rule in what had once been Byzantine territory naturally angered Byzantium, which in 1155 made a last attempt under the Emperor Manuel I Komnenos to reassert its authority in Southern Italy. But the attempt failed, and in 1158 the Byzantines left Italy. Unlike the 1066 Norman conquest of England, the conquest of Southern Italy was the product of decades and many battles, few decisive. Many territories were conquered independently, and were all unified into one state later in history. Compared to the conquest of England, it was unplanned and unorganized, but just as permanent. (Williamson, 2000). 3
An early sign of this new European power came as the Christians of Spain began to push out the Islamic rulers. In 962 AD, Otto the Great began to rebuild the Holy Roman Empire. In 1066, William the Conqueror (“William the Bastard”, because of his illegitimacy) expanded his kingdom to begin building an empire across England and France. Ten years later, the First Crusade succeeded in taking Jerusalem from the Fatimids. (Fatima was Mohammed’s daughter and her descendents were called Fatimids). Italy was still struggling between being part of the Holy Roman Empire and being a lot of independent cities, but kingdoms were forming further east in Poland and Russia. During the 1100s, the kings of France controlled most of modern France. The cities of Europe grew rich enough to build the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages. But by the early 1200s, the High Middle Ages were already giving way to the Late Middle Ages as the Mongol Empire reshaped the politics of Eurasia. (Wikipedia). Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374, “The Father of Humanism”) was very inspired by the buildings of ancient Rome and Greece, and was influential in reviving the ideas and ideals from those eras. Petrarch and his followers called themselves 'Humanists' because they believed that a man’s life on earth should be highly regarded. Prior to the Renaissance, or rebirth, art, architecture, sculpture and literature were based only on religious themes; however, at the beginning of the Renaissance, artists began to focus on nature and the human form. This forward thinking would evolve into the Renaissance era. 1b). Concentrate especially on this section of the question in order to develop this response to its full potential. Explain the term Renaissance. Why did the Renaissance take place in Italy, and in particular, why in Florence, rather than elsewhere in Europe? What was different 4
and unique to Italy and to Florence as compared to northern and central Europe? Develop your response on all fronts -- on politically, economically, and socially. “The Renaissance (French for 'rebirth', or Rinascimento in Italian), was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th through the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. It encompassed the revival of learning based on classical sources, the rise of courtly and papal patronage, the development of perspective in painting, and advancements in science. Despite its wide-ranging consequences in all intellectual pursuits, the Renaissance is perhaps best know for its artistic aspect and polymaths such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, who have become known as "Renaissance men".
The Renaissance has a long and complex historiography, and there has always been debate among historians as to the usefulness of the Renaissance as a term and as a historical age. Some have called into question whether the Renaissance really was a cultural "advance" from the Middle Ages, instead seeing it as a period of pessimism and nostalgia for the classical age. While nineteenth-century historians were keen to emphasise that the Renaissance represented a clear "break" from Medieval thought and practice, some modern historians have instead focused on the continuity between the two eras.” (Sweetera).
Florence was one of the richest cities and areas in Italy because it was proximal to trade routes and had an active commerce center. This region also had Roman Catholicism that contributed to a robust political climate as they differentiated from papal laws and rules. The feudal system (a way of government based on obligations between lord or king) came into question, giving people independence from binding religious commitments that lead to building wealth, the arts, and the humanities that were introduced by Petrarch. The Medici family maintained economic stimulation in Florence which encouraged artists’ cultural expressions.
Over time, Florence and other urban centers formed autonomous city-states that resembled those of the ancient Greeks, and the elite class had the time, ways and means to explore the arts, in contrast to the rest of the impoverished areas of northern Italy and Europe. 5
Even the landed nobility was poorer than the urban patriarchs. Ports of trade had demands for luxury goods which created an economic boom for merchants and tradesmen, who then took control of Italian city-states and created a healthy cycle of commerce and political prowess, which enhanced their sense security. In contrast, in a monarchy, a wealthy man within a feudal state was keenly aware of how volatile his wealth was if the king could confiscate his lands or business. The north also hampered commerce by keeping many medieval laws and prohibitions on non-Christian trading. 2. Explain the term Humanism. How did Renaissance scholars contribute in developing a Humanistic society? Who were the primary scholars and what were their contributions? Discuss in detail the educational reforms and Literary Humanism as well as Civic Humanism. How were these themes applied in real life to Florentine society first and foremost? Go into detail regarding both. After discussing educational reform describe the various attempts and personalities involved in creating a Republican state. This would include Coluccio Salutati, Leonardo Bruni, Niccolo’ Machiavelli, and even Savonarola. What were these men’s contributions to the Republican ideal and to Civic Humanism? How did the Florentine government mirror the closest you could get to a Republican ideal in 15th/16th century Italy? Humanism. “Latin humanitas, an educational and political ideal that was the intellectual basis of the entire movement. Renaissance humanism in all its forms defined itself in its straining toward this ideal. Humanitas meant the development of human virtue, in all its forms, to its fullest extent. The term thus implied not only such qualities as are associated with the modern word humanity—understanding, benevolence, compassion, mercy—but also such more aggressive characteristics as fortitude, judgment, prudence, eloquence, and even love of honor. In short, humanism called for the comprehensive reform of culture, the transfiguration of what humanists termed the passive and ignorant society of the “dark” ages into a new order that would reflect and encourage the grandest human potentialities. Humanism had an evangelical dimension: it sought to project humanitas from the individual into the state at large.” (Britannica).
The great intellectual movement of Renaissance Italy was humanism. The humanists believed that the Greek and Latin classics contained both all the lessons one needed to lead a moral and effective life and the best models for a powerful Latin style. They developed a new, rigorous kind of classical scholarship, with which they corrected and tried to understand the works of the Greeks and Romans, which seemed so vital to them. Both the republican elites of Florence and Venice and the ruling families of Milan, Ferrara, and Urbino hired humanists to teach their children classical morality and to write elegant, classical letters, histories, and propaganda. In the course of the fifteenth century, the humanists also convinced most of the popes that the papacy needed their skills. Sophisticated classical scholars were hired to write official correspondence and propaganda; to create an image of the popes as powerful, enlightened, modern rulers of the Church; and to apply their scholarly tools to the church's needs, including writing a more classical form of the Mass. The relation between popes and scholars was never simple, for the humanists evolved their own views on theology. Some argued that pagan philosophers like Plato basically agreed with Christian revelation. Others criticized important Church doctrines or institutions that lacked biblical or historical support. Some even seemed in danger of becoming pagans. In the High Renaissance, Rome was the center of the literary movement known as "Ciceronianism" that aimed to standardize Latin diction by modeling all prose on the writings of Cicero. The leaders of the movement hoped thereby to make Latin usage more precise and elegant; they also hoped to establish a kind of linguistic orthodoxy maintained by the authority of 7
Rome. Pietro Bembo and Jacopo Sadoleto, Pope Leo X's two Latin secretaries, were the leaders of the movement. Bembo, famously, took an oath no use no word that did not appear in Cicero. Although Cicero had been admired and imitated by Renaissance humanists from the time of Petrarch on, now admiration was elevated almost into worship. One example of this maniacal Ciceronianism is this "History," written by an ambitious young cleric for presentation to Leo X. In it, Costanzo Felici confected a politically-correct revision of Sallust's "Catilinarian Conspiracy," in which Cicero's role in suppressing Catiline, largely dismissed by Sallust himself, was magnified to superhuman proportions. (Library of Congress). Italian Humanists – Francesco Petrarch (1034-1374) was an Italian scholar, poet, and early humanist. In his sonnets, he created the image of real people with personality, debunking the typical Medieval conceptions and stereotypes of people. Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) wrote The Decameron, a short story about the lives of people living during the Black Death. The book focused on people's responses to the plague rather than God's wrath. In this sense, the book was not about religion, but rather about people, a relatively new concept at the time. Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) was an Italian Renaissance humanist philosopher and scholar. He authored the "Oration on the Dignity of Man," which has become known as the "Manifesto of the Renaissance." In this, he explained that man has unlimited potential, and with his free will can be anything he wants to be. He argued that man should make use of his abilities and not waste them. Finally, he explained that people should live their life with virtue, or the 8
quality of being a man - shaping their own destiny, using all of their opportunities, and working aggressively through life. (Kagan).
Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498) – A Dominican monk spoke against the spread of immorality and attachment to material wealth. He blamed the exile of the Medicis as the work of God, punishing them for their decadence, and lead political reforms toward a democratic rule. But when he publicly accused Pope Alexander VI of corruption, he was banned from public speaking. But he did it anyway, and was excommunicated. The Florentines arrested him as a heretic and burned him at the stake on Piazza della Signoira on 23 May 1498.
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) legitimized political expediency under strong leadership. Commissioned by the Medici family he wrote the Florentine Histories. Florentines drove out the Medici twice, and re-established a republic in 1527. Restored twice with the support of both the Emperor and Pope, in 1537 the Medici men became hereditary dukes of Florence, and in 1569 Grand Dukes of Tuscany, thus ruling for two centuries. In all Tuscany, only the Republic of Lucca (later a Duchy) and the Principality of Piombino were independent from Florence. (Barenboim, Zakharov).
Machiavelli wrote Il Principe, The Prince. He wrote that to retain power, the hereditary prince must carefully maintain the socio-political institutions to which the people are accustomed; whereas a new prince has the more difficult task in ruling, since he must first stabilize his new-found power in order to build an enduring political structure. That requires the
prince being concerned with reputation but also willing to act immorally. Some scholars have regarded The Prince as a satire versus actual advice.
Civic humanism involved the cognizant revival of ancient ideals. Republican candor, simplicity of manner, opposition of self-importance, and luxury were common themes, as well as a need to provide against the republics corruption and decay over time.
These authors and men offered insight into a progressive society, and gave the public license by which to explore the world away from religious oversight and inflexible laws. Basically, it gave people permission to be themselves, and guidelines by which to behave appropriately. Access to printed words and these types of readings expanded the general population and minorities’ roles in and education of their society. 3. The High Renaissance. 3a). What period of time are we looking at when we talk of a High Renaissance? Describe how the Medici were influential politically, artistically, and intellectually in developing Renaissance themes? Why were they such excellent patrons of Renaissance art and learning? How is Renaissance Art and Architecture a reflection of those themes. Who were some of the great High Renaissance artists and what were some of their greatest contributions? The period of 1480-1527 marks the years of the High Renaissance. The Medici used their wealth not only to build more wealth but to build prestige and exercise power and influence as well. They grew heavily into politics, ruling Florence for more than a century. And they used 10
much of their power to help the poorer citizens and to encourage artists to flourish and produce greater and greater work.
The loss of his beloved brother, Giuliano, and the trouble in the city had a profound effect on the character of Lorenzo de' Medici. The young man who had enthusiastically participated in tournaments and other diversions was replaced by a serious and devoted statesman, dedicated to the maintenance of peace and stability. More and more of Lorenzo's leisure time was spent in the study of the ancient literature and philosophy that he had first come to know through his youthful tutor, Marsilio Ficino. And he actively encouraged such artists as Filippino Lippi, who was Filippo's son, Lorenzo di Credi, Andrea del Verrocchio, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Sandro Botticelli. After his brother's assassination, Lorenzo had guided the political destiny of Florence with a firm hand, and he had enlarged the financial empire of the Medici, as well. Without benefit of title or crown, he presided over commercial interests that extended from Spain to Constantinople and from the tip of the Italian boot northward beyond the Alps. Artists would be commissioned for years at a time. Their paintings were not just bought, but their supplies paid for, and they were encouraged to study. Michelangelo was a great favorite. The family was also a patron of Galileo by hiring him to tutor their children, more than one generation, over the years. Galileo named the four largest moons of Jupiter after Medici children. Their patronage of architects rounds out this family's far-reaching effects on Florence, the arts, history and event the world today. Many of Florence's most recognizable buildings and features exist because of the influence of the Medici family. 11
Primavera was painted
Primavera, or Allegory of Spring, was painted by Botecelli in the High Renaissance and is one of the most popular paintings of western art.
The Last Supper was painted
The Last Supper, the famous painting by Leonardo Da Vinci, was painted from 1495-1497 and was a picture of Jesus and his disciples' last meal before Jesus’ crucifixion
Mona Lisa painted
One of Leonardo Da Vinci's most famous works was the Mona Lisa which was painted from 1503-1507.
David was sculpted
Another great work of the Renaissance by Michelangelo was the statue of David. It is probably the most well-known sculpture of this time.
Ceiling of Sistine Chapel painted
Michelangelo, as asked by Julius II, painted the entire ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in 4 years.
On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies, printed
Rheticus got permission to publish Copernicus's book. This book explained that the Sun is the center of the Universe, not the earth and all of the planets, including Earth revolve around it.
Italian scientist Galileo discovered the pendulum. The pendulum greatly improved the constant movement of the hands of a clock
Galileo heard about an invention created by a Dutch inventor which made objects distant appear near
Anton van Leeuwenhoek invented a microscope so powerful that he could see microorganisms in rainwater.
Gabriel Fahrenheit was the inventor of the first mercury thermometer (Otabe311)
3b). How did the Church view Renaissance art and learning? Tie in a discussion of the Reformation that began in northern Europe in order to describe the Roman Catholic church’s response. Was scientific discovery a facet of Renaissance thought? Discuss the Church’s view on scientific discovery. Literature and learning throughout the Middle Ages were centered on the Church. Consequently, most books were of a religious nature. There were Greek and Roman texts stashed away in the monasteries, but few people paid much attention to them. All that changed during the Renaissance. For one thing, increased wealth and the invention of the printing press created a broader public that could afford an education and printed books. Most of these newly educated people were from the noble and middle classes. Therefore, they wanted a more practical and secular education and books to prepare them for the real world of business and politics. Along the same lines, a more secular literature largely replaced the predominantly religious literature of the Middle Ages. As study of the past was emerging as lessons learned for the future, hence political science was becoming the new discipline. Nicolo Machiavelli’s governing techniques in “The Prince” urged the prince to do whatever was necessary to carry on and were in contrast to St. Augustine’s concept of the “just war.” Another book of a secular nature was Castiglione's The Courtier, which spelled out the ideal education and qualities of a nobleman attending a prince's court. Unlike the usually illiterate and rough mannered medieval noble, Castiglione's courtier should be versed in manners (such as not cleaning one's teeth in public with one's finger). This ideal of the well-rounded "Renaissance Man" hearkens back to the Greek ideal of a well-rounded man and has continued to this day. (Flow of History). 13
The Catholics responded with a Counter-Reformation, led by the Jesuit order, which reclaimed large parts of Europe, such as Poland. In general, northern Europe, with the exception of Ireland and pockets of Britain, turned Protestant, and southern Europe remained Catholic, while fierce battles that turned into warfare took place in central Europe. The largest of the new denominations were the Anglicans (based in England), the Lutherans (based in Germany and Scandinavia), and the Reformed churches (based in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Scotland). There were many smaller bodies as well. The most common dating begins in 1517 when Martin Luther published The Ninety-Five Theses, and concludes in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia. (Protestant Revolution). The Church’s view on scientific discovery during renaissance was not a simple conflict between science and religion; it was a conflict between Copernican science and Aristotelian science which had become Church tradition. Galileo expressed his scientific views supporting Copernicus as well as his biblical views in a 1615 letter to the Grand Duchess of Tuscany which became the basis of his first Church trial and censure. A major work published in 1632 resulted in Galileo's conviction on suspicion of heresy and a lifetime house arrest. 4. Italian Unification. So many forces worked for and against (mainly against) Italian unification so that a Constitutional Monarchy and a newly united Italy was not to reach even partial attainment until 1861. We know that unlike the rest of Europe, Italy was made up of independent city states that were increasing based on a merchant and banking class, with the exception of the House of Savoy, which retained ties to the French court and was more feudal, and therefore northern in character. 4a). On the eve of unification, what was the pre-Napoleonic scene in Italy. What was going on in the big other 5 power bases besides the Piedmont – Venice, Naples/Sicily, Milan/Genova, Central Italy, and The Papal States? What foreign nations were involved in those various areas – sketch an outline regarding all of them in the mid 18th century. 14
Although the intellectual movement called "The Enlightenment" is usually associated with the 18th century, its roots in fact go back much further. But before we explore those roots, we need to define the term. This is one of those rare historical movements which in fact named itself. Certain thinkers and writers, primarily in London and Paris, believed that they were more enlightened than their compatriots and set out to enlighten them. They believed that human reason could be used to combat ignorance, superstition, and tyranny and to build a better world. Their principal targets were religion (embodied in France in the Catholic Church) and the domination of society by a hereditary aristocracy. Background in Antiquity
To understand why this movement became so influential in the 18th century, it is important to go back in time. We could choose almost any starting point, but let us begin with the recovery of Aristotelian logic by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. In his hands the logical procedures so carefully laid out by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle were used to defend the dogmas of Christianity; and for the next couple of centuries, other thinkers pursued these goals to shore up every aspect of faith with logic. These thinkers were sometimes called "schoolmen" (more formally, "scholastics,") and Voltaire frequently refers to them as "doctors," by which he means "doctors of theology." Unfortunately for the Catholic Church, the tools of logic could not be confined to the uses it preferred. After all, they had been developed in Athens, in a pagan culture which had turned them on its own traditional beliefs. It was only a matter of time before later Europeans would do the same.
The Renaissance Humanists
In the 14th and 15th century there emerged in Italy and France a group of thinkers known as the "humanists." The term did not then have the anti-religious associations it has in contemporary political debate. Almost all of them were practicing Catholics. They argued that the proper worship of God involved admiration of his creation, and in particular of that crown of creation: humanity. By celebrating the human race and its capacities they argued they were worshipping God more appropriately than gloomy priests and monks who harped on original sin and continuously called upon people to confess and humble themselves before the Almighty. Indeed, some of them claimed that humans were like God, created not only in his image, but with a share of his creative power. The painter, the architect, the musician, and the scholar, by exercising their intellectual powers, were fulfilling divine purposes. This celebration of human capacity, though it was mixed in the Renaissance with elements of gloom and superstition (witchcraft trials flourished in this period as they never had during the Middle Ages), was to bestow a powerful legacy on Europeans. The goal of Renaissance humanists was to recapture some of the pride, breadth of spirit, and creativity of the ancient Greeks and Romans, to replicate their successes and go beyond them. Europeans developed the belief that tradition could and should be used to promote change. By cleaning and sharpening the tools of antiquity, they could reshape their own time. Galileo Galilei, for instance, was to use the same sort of logic the schoolmen had used--reinforced with observation--to argue in 1632 for the Copernican notion that the earth rotates on its axis beneath the unmoving sun. The Church, and most particularly the Holy Inquisition, objected that the Bible clearly stated that the sun moved through the sky and denounced Galileo's teachings, forcing him to recant (take
back) what he had written and preventing him from teaching further. The Church's triumph was a pyrrhic victory, for though it could silence Galileo, it could not prevent the advance of science (though most of those advances would take place in Protestant northern Europe, out of the reach of the pope and his Inquisition). But before Galileo's time, in the 16th century, various humanists had begun to ask dangerous questions. François Rabelais, a French monk and physician influenced by Protestantism, but spurred on by his own rebelliousness, challenged the Church's authority in his Gargantua and Pantagruel, ridiculing many religious doctrines as absurd. Michel de Montaigne
Michel de Montaigne, in a much more quiet and modest but ultimately more subversive way, asked a single question over and over again in his Essays: "What do I know?" By this he meant that we have no right to impose on others dogmas which rest on cultural habit rather than absolute truth. Powerfully influenced by the discovery of thriving non-Christian cultures in places as far off as Brazil, he argued that morals may be to some degree relative. Who are Europeans to insist that Brazilian cannibals who merely consume dead human flesh instead of wasting it are morally inferior to Europeans who persecute and oppress those of whom they disapprove? This shift toward cultural relativism, though it was based on scant understanding of the newly discovered peoples, was to continue to have a profound effect on European thought to the present day. Indeed, it is one of the hallmarks of the Enlightenment. Just as their predecessors had used the tools of antiquity to gain unprecedented freedom of inquiry, the Enlightenment thinkers used the examples of other cultures to gain the freedom to reshape not only their philosophies, but their societies. It was 17
becoming clear that there was nothing inevitable about the European patterns of thought and living: there were many possible ways of being human, and doubtless new ones could be invented. The other contribution of Montaigne to the Enlightenment stemmed from another aspect of his famous question: "What do I know?" If we cannot be certain that our values are God-given, then we have no right to impose them by force on others. Inquisitors, popes, and kings alike had no business enforcing adherence to particular religious or philosophical beliefs. It is one of the great paradoxes of history that radical doubt was necessary for the new sort of certainty called "scientific." The good scientist is the one is willing to test all assumptions, to challenge all traditional opinion, to get closer to the truth. If ultimate truth, such as was claimed by religious thinkers, was unattainable by scientists, so much the better. In a sense, the strength of science at its best is that it is always aware of its limits, aware that knowledge is always growing, always subject to change, never absolute. Because knowledge depends on evidence and reason, arbitrary authority can only be its enemy. The 17th Century
René Descartes, in the 17th century, attempted to use reason as the schoolmen had, to shore up his faith; but much more rigorously than had been attempted before. He tried to begin with a blank slate, with the bare minimum of knowledge: the knowledge of his own existence ("I think, therefore I am"). From there he attempted to reason his way to a complete defense of Christianity, but to do so he committed so many logical faults that his successors over the centuries were to slowly disintegrate his gains, even finally challenging the notion of selfhood with which he had begun. The history of philosophy from his time to the early 20th century is partly the story of more and more ingenious logic proving less and less, until Ludwig Wittgenstein succeeded in undermining the very bases of philosophy itself. 18
But that is a story for a different course. Here we are concerned with early stages in the process in which it seemed that logic could be a powerful avenue to truth. To be sure, logic alone could be used to defend all sorts of absurd notions; and Enlightenment thinkers insisted on combining it with something they called "reason" which consisted of common sense, observation, and their own unacknowledged prejudices in favor of skepticism and freedom. We have been focusing closely on a thin trickle of thought which traveled through an era otherwise dominated by dogma and fanaticism. The 17th century was torn by witch-hunts and wars of religion and imperial conquest. Protestants and Catholics denounced each other as followers of Satan, and people could be imprisoned for attending the wrong church, or for not attending any. All publications, whether pamphlets or scholarly volumes, were subject to prior censorship by both church and state, often working hand in hand. Slavery was widely practiced, especially in the colonial plantations of the Western Hemisphere, and its cruelties frequently defended by leading religious figures. The despotism of monarchs exercising far greater powers than any medieval king was supported by the doctrine of the "divine right of kings," and scripture quoted to show that revolution was detested by God. Speakers of sedition or blasphemy quickly found themselves imprisoned, or even executed. Organizations which tried to challenge the twin authorities of church and state were banned. There had been plenty of intolerance and dogma to go around in the Middle Ages, but the emergence of the modern state made its tyranny much more efficient and powerful. It was inevitable that sooner or later many Europeans would begin to weary of the repression and warfare carried out in the name of absolute truth. In addition, though Protestants had begun by making powerful critiques of Catholicism, they quickly turned their guns on each other, producing a bewildering array of churches each claiming the exclusive path to salvation. It was natural for people tossed from one 20
demanding faith to another to wonder whether any of the churches deserved the authority they claimed, and to begin to prize the skepticism of Montaigne over the certainty of Luther or Calvin. Meanwhile, there were other powerful forces at work in Europe: economic ones which were to interact profoundly with these intellectual trends. The Political and Economic Background
During the late Middle Ages, peasants had begun to move from rural estates to the towns in search of increased freedom and prosperity. As trade and communication improved during the Renaissance, the ordinary town-dweller began to realize that things need not always go on as they had for centuries. New charters could be written, new governments formed, new laws passed, new businesses begun. Although each changed institution quickly tried to stabilize its power by claiming the support of tradition, the pressure for change continued to mount. It was not only contact with alien cultural patterns which influenced Europeans, it was the wealth brought back from Asia and the Americas which catapulted a new class of merchants into prominence, partially displacing the old aristocracy whose power had been rooted in the ownership of land. These merchants had their own ideas about the sort of world they wanted to inhabit, and they became major agents of change, in the arts, in government, and in the economy. They were naturally convinced that their earnings were the result of their individual merit and hard work, unlike the inherited wealth of traditional aristocrats. Whereas individualism had been chiefly emphasized in the Renaissance by artists, especially visual artists, it now became a core value. The ability of individual effort to transform the world became a European dogma, lasting to this day.
But the chief obstacles to the reshaping of Europe by the merchant class were the same as those faced by the rationalist philosophers: absolutist kings and dogmatic churches. The struggle was complex and many-sided, with each participant absorbing many of the others' values; but the general trend is clear: individualism, freedom and change replaced community, authority, and tradition as core European values. Religion survived, but weakened and often transformed almost beyond recognition; the monarchy was to dwindle over the course of the hundred years beginning in the mid-18th century to a pale shadow of its former self. This is the background of the 18th-century Enlightenment. Europeans were changing, but Europe's institutions were not keeping pace with that change. The Church insisted that it was the only source of truth, that all who lived outside its bounds were damned, while it was apparent to any reasonably sophisticated person that most human beings on earth were not and had never been Christians--yet they had built great and inspiring civilizations. Writers and speakers grew restive at the omnipresent censorship and sought whatever means they could to evade or even denounce it. Most important, the middle classes--the bourgeoisie--were painfully aware that they were paying taxes to support a fabulously expensive aristocracy which contributed nothing of value to society (beyond, perhaps, its patronage of the arts, which the burghers of Holland had shown could be equally well exercised by themselves), and that those useless aristocrats were unwilling to share power with those who actually managed and--to their way of thinking,--created the national wealth. They were to find ready allies in France among the impoverished masses who may have lived and thought much like their ancestors, but who were all too aware that with each passing year they were paying higher and higher taxes to support a few thousand at Versailles in idle dissipation.
The Role of the Aristocrats
Interestingly, it was among those very idle aristocrats that the French Enlightenment philosophers were to find some of their earliest and most enthusiastic followers. Despite the fact that the Church and State were more often than not allied with each other, they were keenly aware of their differences. Even kings could on occasion be attracted by arguments which seemed to undermine the authority of the Church. The fact that the aristocrats were utterly unaware of the precariousness of their position also made them overconfident, interested in dabbling in the new ideas partly simply because they were new and exciting. Voltaire moved easily in these aristocratic circles, dining at their tables, taking a titled mistress, corresponding with monarchs. He opposed tyranny and dogma, but he had no notion of reinventing that discredited Athenian folly, democracy. He had far too little faith in the ordinary person for that. What he did think was that educated and sophisticated persons could be brought to see through the exercise of their reason that the world could and should be greatly improved. Rousseau vs. Voltaire
Not all Enlightenment thinkers were like Voltaire in this. His chief adversary was Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who distrusted the aristocrats not out of a thirst for change but because he believed they were betraying decent traditional values. He opposed the theater which was Voltaire's lifeblood, shunned the aristocracy which Voltaire courted, and argued for something dangerously like democratic revolution. Whereas Voltaire argued that equality was impossible, Rousseau argued that inequality was not only unnatural, but that--when taken too far--it made decent government impossible. Whereas Voltaire charmed with his wit, Rousseau ponderously insisted on his correctness, even while contradicting himself. Whereas Voltaire insisted on the supremacy of the intellect, Rousseau emphasized the emotions, 23
becoming a contributor to both the Enlightenment and its successor, romanticism. And whereas Voltaire endlessly repeated the same handful of core Enlightenment notions, Rousseau sparked off original thoughts in all directions: ideas about education, the family, government, the arts, and whatever else attracted his attention. For all their personal differences, the two shared more values than they liked to acknowledge. They viewed absolute monarchy as dangerous and evil and rejected orthodox Christianity. Though Rousseau often struggled to seem more devout, he was almost as much a skeptic as Voltaire: the minimalist faith both shared was called "deism," and it was eventually to transform European religion and have powerful influences on other aspects of society as well. Across the border in Holland, the merchants, who exercised most political power, there made a successful industry out of publishing books that could not be printed in countries like France. Dissenting religious groups mounted radical attacks on Christian orthodoxy. The Enlightenment in England
Meanwhile Great Britain had developed its own Enlightenment, fostered by thinkers like the English thinker John Locke, the Scot David Hume, and many others. England had anticipated the rest of Europe by deposing and decapitating its king back in the 17th century. Although the monarchy had eventually been restored, this experience created a certain openness toward change in many places that could not be entirely extinguished. English Protestantism struggled to express itself in ways that widened the limits of freedom of speech and press. Radical Quakers and Unitarians broke open old dogmas in ways that Voltaire was to find highly congenial when he found himself there in exile. The English and French Enlightenments exchanged influences through many channels, Voltaire not least among them. 24
Because England had gotten its revolution out of the way early, it was able to proceed more smoothly and gradually down the road to democracy; but English liberty was dynamite when transported to France, where resistance by church and state was fierce to the last possible moment. The result was ironically that while Britain remained saturated with class privilege and relatively pious, France was to become after its own revolution the most egalitarian and anticlerical state in Europe--at least in its ideals. The power of religion and the aristocracy diminished gradually in England; in France they were violently uprooted. The Enlightenment in America
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, many of the intellectual leaders of the American colonies were drawn to the Enlightenment. The colonies may have been founded by leaders of various dogmatic religious persuasions, but when it became necessary to unite against England, it was apparent that no one of them could prevail over the others, and that the most desirable course was to agree to disagree. Nothing more powerfully impelled the movement toward the separation of church and state than the realization that no one church could dominate this new state. Many of the most distinguished leaders of the American revolution--Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Paine--were powerfully influenced by English and--to a lesser extent--French Enlightenment thought. The God who underwrites the concept of equality in the Declaration of Independence is the same deist God Rousseau worshipped, not that venerated in the traditional churches which still supported and defended monarchies all over Europe. Jefferson and Franklin both spent time in France--a natural ally because it was a traditional enemy of England--absorbing the influence of the French Enlightenment. The language of natural law, of inherent freedoms, of self-determination which seeped so deeply into the
American grain was the language of the Enlightenment, though often coated with a light glaze of traditional religion, what has been called our "civil religion." This is one reason that Americans should study the Enlightenment. It is in their bones. It has defined part of what they have dreamed of, what they aim to become. Separated geographically from most of the aristocrats against whom they were rebelling, their revolution was to be far less corrosive--and at first less influential--than that in France. The Struggle in Europe
But we need to return to the beginning of the story, to Voltaire and his allies in France, struggling to assert the values of freedom and tolerance in a culture where the twin fortresses of monarchy and Church opposed almost everything they stood for. To oppose the monarchy openly would be fatal; the Church was an easier target. Protestantism had made religious controversy familiar. Voltaire could skillfully cite one Christian against another to make his arguments. One way to undermine the power of the Church was to undermine its credibility, and thus Voltaire devoted a great deal of his time to attacking the fundamentals of Christian belief: the inspiration of the Bible, the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, the damnation of unbelievers. No doubt he relished this battle partly for its own sake, but he never lost sight of his central goal: the toppling of Church power to increase the freedom available to Europeans. Voltaire was joined by a band of rebellious thinkers known as the philosophes: Charles de Montesquieu, Pierre Bayle, Jean d'Alembert, and many lesser lights. Although "philosophe" literally means "philosopher" we use the French word in English to designate this particular group of French 18th-century thinkers. Because Denis Diderot commissioned many of them to write for his influential Encyclopedia, they are also known as "the Encyclopedists." 26
The Heritage of the Enlightenment
Today the Enlightenment is often viewed as a historical anomaly, a brief moment when a number of thinkers infatuated with reason vainly supposed that the perfect society could be built on common sense and tolerance, a fantasy which collapsed amid the Terror of the French Revolution and the triumphal sweep of Romanticism. Religious thinkers repeatedly proclaim the Enlightenment dead, Marxists denounce it for promoting the ideals and power of the bourgeoisie at the expense of the working classes, postcolonial critics reject its idealization of specifically European notions as universal truths, and postructuralists reject its entire concept of rational thought. Yet in many ways, the Enlightenment has never been more alive. The notions of human rights it developed are powerfully attractive to oppressed peoples everywhere, who appeal to the same notion of natural law that so inspired Voltaire and Jefferson. Wherever religious conflicts erupt, mutual religious tolerance is counseled as a solution. Rousseau's notions of self-rule are ideals so universal that the worst tyrant has to disguise his tyrannies by claiming to be acting on their behalf. European these ideas may be, but they have also become global. Whatever their limits, they have formed the consensus of international ideals by which modern states are judged. If our world seems little closer to perfection than that of 18th-century France, that is partly due to our failure to appreciate gains we take for granted. But it is also the case that many of the enemies of the Enlightenment are demolishing a straw man: it was never as simple-mindedly optimistic as it has often been portrayed. Certainly Voltaire was no facile optimist. He distrusted utopianism, instead trying to cajole Europeans out of their more harmful stupidities. Whether we acknowledge his influence or not, we still think today more like him than like his enemies.
As we go through his most influential work, The Philosophical Dictionary, look for passages which helped lay the groundwork for modern patterns of thought. Look also for passages which still seem challenging, pieces of arguments that continue today. (Brians) Further useful link: Richard Hooker's detailed history of the European Enlightenment 4b). Having said that, one of the big themes here is to discuss the importance and the contributions to Italian Unity under Napoleon. What impact did the French Revolution and Napoleon have on Italian unification?
The French Revolution and Napoleon spread the ideas of liberalism and nationalism across Europe. These ideas took root and gave rise to several outbreaks of revolution in the 1820's, 1830's, and 1840's, the most severe being the revolutions of 1848. Although most of these revolutions failed, they continued the spread of liberal & nationalist ideas and also gave reformers a more realistic appreciation of what it would take to achieve their goals. The revolutions of 1848 especially influenced the peoples of Eastern Europe under Hapsburg and Ottoman rule as well as the peoples of Italy and Germany in Central Europe. (Flow of History).
Italian Unification could not be brought about without him after 1848. This may be demonstrated at Plombières and the following war of 1859. Piedmont would not have won any other way. Nor would Piedmont have got away with conquering the rest of Italy if Napoleon wasn’t so horrified at the destructive nature of the war. Napoleon’s importance may be reinforced by looking at Venetia and Rome. He led the way for Venetia to be reunited with its home. Rome was different – Rome delayed unification – due to Napoleon III, and no one else.
Historians would agree on two things about Napoleon. First, he was an extraordinary man, a self-made man. His drive, will, military genius and charisma made him a great man, a world historical figure, a man who made history. Machiavelli would have found Napoleon to be his perfect prince. Second, by spreading revolutionary ideals and institutions, Napoleon made it impossible for the restoration of the ancient regime. After Napoleon there was no turning back: feudalism was dead, society was secularized, the modern nation state replaced the dynastic state, and the bourgeoisie became the new class of privilege and status.
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