Enlightenment in Italy

In Italy, Enlightenment is referred to as Illuminismo. In the closing 17th century, Italy, still divided into over a dozen states, suffered from an ineffective administration, with Spain and the Catholic church were the dominating political factors. The Jesuit Order controlled both education and the publication of books (censorship). Jesuit education philosophy stressed Latin language and memorization, aimed at indoctrinating rather than at convincing the student, and therefore was responsible for creating an atmosphere which favoured superstition.
A generation of writers, among them Scipione Maffei (1675-1755), Ludovico Antonio Muratori (1672-1750) and Pietro Giannone (1676-1748) published, among others, historical documents and books on history. A common element was aversion toward superstition; Pietro Giannone bluntly blamed the Catholic church interference for the maladministration of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. His book ended up on the index, and he was jailed. Muratori was more diplomatic; like Giannone he regarded the church interference in state administration and education the root of the problem. Austrian Empress Maria Theresia, when implementing her educational reform, was influenced by Muratori.
Many of the Italian intellectuals of the 18th century were versatile, interested in many subjects, in the tradition of Renaissance Humanism. Among them, Giambattista Vico (1668-1744) has to be mentioned, the Naples scholar whose "New Science" (1725) won wide acclaim. He is not regarded an enlightenment scholar.
The most influential protagonist of Italian enlightenment was Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794), whose "Essay on Crimes and Punishment" caused Duke Leopold of Tuscany to abolish the death penalty in 1786.

The Bourbon reform policy and the suppression of the
Jesuit Order
(1773, by Pope Clement XIV.) created an atmosphere more favourable for the implementation of enlightenment ideas in political reforms.
Duke Leopold of Tuscany - in 1790 he would succeed his brother Joseph II. and become Emperor - was a model enlightened monarch. The Synod of Pistoia (with ducal support) claimed Gallican liberties for Tuscany; obstacles to free trade within Tuscany (privileges) were abolished, as was torture.
The impact enlightenment ideas had differed from region to region, the Papal State, as a theocracy, lagging furthest behind.

Cronologia, Italian language site on Italian and World History
History of Italy : Foreign Domination and Unification, from Wikipedia
Rischiarare lĄ¯intelletto con Ludovico Antonio Muratori, from La Repubblica Letteraria Italiana, in Italian
Biography of Lodovico Antonio Muratori, from BBKL (in German), from Catholic Encyclopedia (Luigi A.M.)
Giambattista Vico Homepage
Biography of Giambattista Vico, from SFSU
Cesare Beccaria, from Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Marchese Francesco Scipione Maffei, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Pietro Giannone, from Catholic Encyclopedia, from EB 1911
DOCUMENTS Map : major Italian States in 1748, from Modern Italy at Dickinson College
Cesare Beccaria, an essay on crimes and punishment (1775), excerpt from Modern Italy at Dickinson College, bilingual Engl.-Italian
REFERENCE History Book Reviews : Pre-Unification Italy, -1859

Article Italy, in : Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Macropaedia, Vol.22 pp.165-247, KMLA Lib.Sign. R 032 B862n v.22
Christopher Duggan, A Concise History of Italy, Cambridge Concise Histories, Cambridge : University Press 1994, 320 pp.
Girolamo Imbruglia, Enlightenment in eighteenth-century Naples, pp.70-94 in : G. Imbruglia (ed.), Naples in the Eighteenth Century, Cambridge : UP 2000 ; KMLA Lib.Sign. 945.73 I32h

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on March 22nd 2006

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