Empire and Humanism
Although the humanists greeted the revival of imperial aspirations in Northern Italy with unvarnished enthusiasm, their conception of Empire has been treated rather dismissively in scholarly literature. In most surveys of political thought, it has simply been ignored. But even where it has been acknowledged, it has been portrayed either as a digression from a dominant discourse of communal liberty, or as a flight of nostalgic whimsy divorced from the ‘real’ spirit of humanism. Challenging the assumptions on which such attitudes have been based, this chapter demonstrates that the political life of the regnum Italicum cannot be described solely in terms of the conflict between communes and signori; that the ideal of liberty was not tied to any one form of government; and that there was no ‘natural’ connection between humanism and republicanism. In doing so, it provides the rationale for, and the methodology employed in, this study.
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