The Activities of 17-Century Italy
And yet, in this Italian “decadence”, the moments of progress, of the positive work that history has done, of the slow and unconscious adaptation of Italians to the needs of an age that is oriented towards the great states are visible. Italy stagnates: yet in its own stagnation there are the conditions for a new advance. The decline of small states, the ruin of the old feudal nobility, the exhaustion of the closed circles of the city patriciate are decadence, ruin, exhaustion of old forms of life: they give some impulse to thoughts, feelings, aspirations of wider and proper state organizations, to activities and ideals of the bourgeoisie. The decadence of the aristocracy puts a lot of firm wealth back into circulation, feeds new social formations. We are witnessing the splitting of the great fiefdoms and the rise of new inhabited centers in them. Although with very bumpy and irregular lines, with rapid descents to which rapid ascents respond equally, there is an increase in population in the 17th century; an agriculture that, alongside areas of desolation and abandonment, presents others in development; a large increase in private property at the expense of royal, municipal and feudal state properties, perhaps for usurpation; large quantities of land subject to grazing and sowing easements, now closed and removed from disorderly exploitation, started, in the energetic recovery of the eighteenth century, for more intense production. If on the one hand the ancient industrious municipal pride dies, in the general decadence of city life, with it all that world of memories, thoughts, dies, feelings that centered on the small homeland that “a wall and a greenhouse pit”. Municipalities, by dint of being stripped of their old functions and living under protection, are organizing themselves as administrative bodies and get used to the idea of a distinction of local and general interests, of administration and politics. Cities are fighting for theirs libertas in front of the feudal baron. It satisfies the interests and ambitions and vanity of nuclei of the patriciate and of the municipal bourgeoisie who are perched in those administrations. But it also creates direct dependence on the prince. And every time the communities are claimed by the prince, he acquires or regains some new prerogative from the community; every time he gives them back as a fief, he grants the baron a few less prerogatives. There is also a process of formation of new elements of the bourgeoisie, replacing or integrating the other: new owners, agents and rural factors of the great absentee gentlemen, grain hoarders and exporters, tax contractors, small money lenders. and in large to the princes and nobility and the communes, officials of the growing bureaucracy, lawyers and lawyers who are already the most important food of the southern bourgeoisie, especially Neapolitan. It is rather slow formation; this bourgeoisie contains many parasitic elements; it lacks any spiritual and sentimental consistency of self and political conscience; his ideal of life is outside his class, he is in the nobility. And as soon as an enriched merchant or a lawyer can, he solicits papers of nobility and buys a fiefdom. However, it reveals an uninterrupted process of turnover in the Italian social organism.
Even those who look at art and culture must not forget Italian music in the 17th century; a certain serious effort of originality that painting makes with its love of living things, with the observation of new aspects of life, with its new pictorial centers, such as Bologna and Naples. And in the field of political thought, some new problems, such as that of “reason of state”, of the relationship between morality and politics, etc. And historiography, even if it looks, perhaps more than before, almost only outside historical life, at the political and diplomatic tangle, at the intrigue of the courts, at military facts, nevertheless it opens its eyes to a wider European reality, is interested in events from all over the world. Not to be forgotten, even as the Italian culture was losing in depth and retreating from advanced positions that it had previously reached in the world,
In fact, its elements penetrated into areas that until then had remained closed to them. According to IAMHIGHER.COM, the knowledge of the great writers spread, in his own way, among the people. Ariosto and Tasso went down to the man of the people, the peasant and the shepherd; the so-called popular art and literature drew largely on great art and great literature. It is the time of dialect literary production which, gathering the echoes, the ideas, the motives of the literary production in the Italian language, contributes to spread it, put it into circulation, make it penetrate where it would not be so easily penetrated. And there was a greater spiritual unity among the Italian people. Linguistic unity promoted the writers, already great, as in few other European countries, despite many centuries of municipal life, with the current segregation between province and province, with the scarcity of economic and cultural exchanges between the various states. And the Vocabulario della Crusca, which is the Florentine and Tuscan language, but at the same time Italian, is the mirror of this linguistic unity in the 17th century, it is the language of educated people, the written language. The unity that centuries before had expected from a court, however, came from the spontaneous work of the people and writers. Basically, the one that already in the 1500s was against the Florentine supporters of a too Florentine theory of the language, the aspiration of, let’s call them, Italian provincials, that is, that the right of Italian citizenship should also be given to the languages of the regions; this aspiration was in fact satisfied. The same can be said of every other manifestation of custom, which is also unifying, perhaps in the form of Spanishism or Frenchism. And really, there is both in the 17th century. First, plus one, then, plus the other. And the writers animated by national concerns complained of it, as a sign of servitude already in place, as a preparation for other and greater servitude. Although then also the superficiality of these influences and the persistence of characteristics typical of the Italian people were noted.
From this unity of culture and civilization, seen in its substantial elements, of this moral personality of the Italians, of which they were fully persuaded, the political writers and publicists of the ‘500 and’ 600 deduced the convenience of understanding between the principles , of agreements between independent states, also of lasting pacts to form a united front in front of foreigners, and to give “freedom” to Italy, to all of Italy: “since all of Italy is home to Italian”, he writes Boccalini. A very frequent note, especially in the first half of the seventeenth century, to be considered as a manifestation of a widespread current of public opinion. And it’s not just an anti-Spanish or anti-French note. This freedom is referred to as “national freedom”. Nobody will want to overestimate these thoughts and words, which also recur in dozens of scriptures. Their response to actions was poor, sometimes none at all; although there are men for whom those thoughts have been the thoughts of all life. But even if there was no program of action in them, there was the awareness of the Italian national individuality, the persuasion that foreign domination represented damage and injustice, the vision of a variously unitary structure responding to unity. history of the Italian people, sometimes the exhortation to Italians to “do it yourself”, the only way to do it. The political conscience of Italians in the 18th and 19th centuries will be enriched by other elements. The democratic idea will give greater content to the idea of nation and national independence. But each age has its tasks, within the limits marked by historical conditions, possibilities, etc. Now there are more current ideas than not deep convictions merged with the moral conscience: but even those current ideas have their value, they enter the plot of the “Risorgimento”, which is something of the century. XIX and is present and immanent in all of Italian history, from the fall of Rome and from the invasions onwards.