Humanism and Empire: The Imperial Ideal in Fourteenth-Century Italy

ISBN : 9780199675159

Alexander Lee
464 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Mar 2018
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Humanism and Empire is about that most 'modern' of ideas - liberty. For more than a century, scholars have argued that the origins of the concept are to be found in the writings of fourteenth-century Italian humanists. Thought to be predominantly civic in outlook, these early humanists are said to have drawn on classical literature to fashion a defence of communal freedom against the 'tyranny' of neighbouring lords and - crucially - the overbearing absolutism of the German emperors. In this ground-breaking book, Alexander Lee challenges this long-held belief. While the humanists were indeed anxious to combat the threat of tyranny, Lee shows that - paradoxically - they regarded the Holy Roman Empire as the best guarantee of communal liberty, and as a bulwark against the instability of republics. As such, Humanism and Empire offers a radically new vision of the foundations of modern political thought, and will change the way we think about the notion of liberty.


Introduction: Empire and Humanism; Part I The Defence of Empire; 1 Communes, Signori, and Empire (c.1260-c.1335); 2 Providence, History, and Empire (c.1290-c.1335); 3 Italy, Rome, and Empire (c.1335-1369); 4 The Twilight of Empire (1369-1402); Part II The Dynamics of Empire; 5 The Bounds of Empire; 6 Imperium and Sacerdotium; 7 An Elective Empire; Epilogue: Humanism and Empire; Bibliography

About the author: 

Alexander Lee is a fellow in the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick. Educated at the universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh, he has previously held positions at the University of Oxford, the Universite du Luxembourg, and the Universita degli studi di Bergamo. His recent publications include Petrarch and St. Augustine: Classical Scholarship, Christian Theology, and the Origins of the Renaissance in Italy (2012) and The Ugly Renaissance (2013). He is currently completing a biography of Niccolo Machiavelli.

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