Modern Historiography: Renaissance and Reformation School

By the fifteen century Europe began to experience changes of a great magnitude. This three great institutions of the west-Holy Roman Empire, the Papacy and feudalism-drift towards decay. The eastern Roman Empire collapsed and Constantinople fell to the Turks. The classical scholars fled to the western countries, taught the literature of ancient Greece and Rome in their new homelands and created a new interest in classical learning. The result was the Renaissance.

There followed the geographical discoveries, the Protestant Reformation, expansion of trade and emergence of nation states. There were achievements in art, literature, science, philosophy, politics and education. Interest in things spiritual that characterized the medieval times gave way to interest in things human as in the ancient Greek-Roman world. The historians found vast and diversi- fied areas of knowledge as the themes for their writing. Instead of theoiogy, humanism gained the ascendancy in historical writing.

Renaissance School: Machiavelli

The revival of classical learning had its beginning in Italy. The states of Italy maintained the classical tradition and the lay schools continued to function. These favoured the rise of a new interest in historical writing. The historians of Renaissance Italy displayed a critical spirit and an objective attitude, in a degree that had not been found for long since the end of the ancient period.

Among the historians of Italy of this period, the noted ones were Villani, Bruni and Corio. Villani wrote the history of Florence. While dealing with the course of events, he gave adequate importance to causes, conditions and results.
Bruni wrote the history of Florence. Through enquiry and analysis, he drew distinction between myth and history and gave a due consideration to human and psychological factors. Corio, who wrote the history of Milan, was an outstanding scholar. Noted for accuracy, his historical account is rich in material on society and economy.

The greatest of the historians of Italy from the Renaissance period was Niccolo
Machiavelli (1469-1527); at the age of 25, he received a position in the government. Among his well-known works were: The Prince, Discourses on Livy, The History of Florence and The Art of War. Machiavelli studied the political systems that were working in the different states of Italy, analysed the data with a precision and wrote his immortal work, The Prince. Intended to give an accurate picture of politics, government and diplomacy in Italy of 1500 CE, it defined the political philosophy of the times. However, as a piece of work discussing the efficacy of the power of state, it came to be considered as a manual for princes.

Largely because of this book, the Medici rulers employed
him as an adviser to their government in Florence. The History of Florence, written at the request of Pope Clement VII, was his principal historical work. Based upon an analytical study of sources, it is an account of the evolution of the Republic of Florence from the invasion of the barbarians to the death of Lorenzo de Medici. As a historian, he strictly excluded all theological interpretations and endeavoured to discover the natural laws, which governed the life of the people. The Art of War, written on the basis of his own
experiences in military operations, was a comprehensive account of the techniques of war. In it he establishes that a citizen soldiery was essential for the preservation of liberty. The Discourses, a collection of essays, favours a constitutional form of government.

As a political thinker and a historian, Machiavelli made his own contributions to the enhancement of knowledge. He challenged the medieval conception that the spiritual authority was secondary and the political The poitic power, he asserted, was independent of spiritual power. He adored what good in the Pagan past and attacked the church for glorifying the meek and condemning the active.

As a historian, he gave importance to causes and results and linked the political development with a natural phenomen on, marked bv growth as we as decay. He of the asserted national thar only historians had explored the reality of piltics. Further, he dreamed of the national  unity of Italy. The mancinations of the princes and the domanice of the church on the people kept Italy divided. His pragmatic approach to the problem of his day had bearing upon the course of history.

According to him, a ruler ‘should if possible practice goodness, but under the pressure of necessity should know how to pursue evil’. In view observations, fascism,  Nazism and communism are considered as types of Machiavellian. As a stern realized he applied cold logic, adopted the realistic view that men were essentially the same irrespective of the ages and derived the principles of wider p application. However, it is to be admitted that though he adopted a pragmatic approach towards the political issues he generally ignored the cultural trends that were at work,.

More scientist than Machiavelli’s  analysis was his younger contemporary’s Guicciardini. A diplomat of Florence, he wrote the History of Italy. It furnishes a detailed and impartial account of the developments in in Italy.  This had its effect on the historical writing in that country. Philip was a politician as well as a scholar. His historical memoirs covered the regal years of Louis XI and Charies X a France. Ganguin wrote the history of France iron ancient times to the end of the fifteenth century. Jean Bodin (1530-96) was a noted thinker, cho gave importance to the methods of historical studies and viewed history as of intellectual interest and pragmatic value a bearing upon the course of history

Reformation School

In Germany and England, classical literature was studied, but more than the Remissness it was the Reformation that created an interest for historical writing. Several writers Germany attempted historical works but because of their bias towards the Protestant religion, they displayed no critical analysis. Sebastian Franck composed a world gist giving important to social conditions. John Carion’s Chronicle furnished a historical sketch from Adam to 1532 CE.

Flacius wrote his Centuries treating history as a struggle between god and the Devils. In England, the Tudor period was covered in the historical writings by the layman. Their writings represented a transaction from the medieval to the modern. Instead of latin modern. Instead of Latin, English came to be used, largely for writings.  Sir Thomas the Wrote The History of Richard 11, while George Cazvendish, Life of Cardinal Wolsey.

Sir Walter Raleigh’s History of the World was a remarkable work not only because of subject but also because of the novelty of ideas. Francis Racon in his essay on Henry VIl suggested the necessity of a scientist study of history, based upon an examination of facts. Thomas Hobbes was a political thinker, whose concept of social contract about the origin of monarchy contributed to the growth of secular and scientific history.

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