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Humanism and EmpireThe Imperial Ideal in Fourteenth-Century Italy$
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Alexander Lee

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780199675159

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199675159.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 17 September 2021

The Bounds of Empire

The Bounds of Empire

(p.185) 5 The Bounds of Empire
Humanism and Empire

Alexander Lee

Oxford University Press

Scholars have long believed that ‘medieval’ universalism was supplanted by ‘Italian’ nationalism over the course of the fourteenth century. As this chapter demonstrates, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Although the humanists were often more concerned with the fate of Italy, or of individual cities, than of mankind as a whole, they did not waver in their belief that the Holy Roman Empire enjoyed universal dominion. Only at the very end of the Visconti Wars, when the Empire was seen to threaten the peace and liberty of the peninsula did ‘Italianness’ at last begin to come to the fore. Yet this is not to say that their universalism was unvarying. Depending on whether they chose to view it more as the successor of the ancient imperium Romanum or as an instrument of providence, they could paint it in idealistically ‘Roman’ colours, or endow it with a more ‘hegemonic’ tinge.

Keywords:   humanism, geography, universalism, nationalism, Rome, law, providence

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