Early Modern Kingship: The History of Y (must use Dante, Machiavelli, or More) Dante is medieval but he impacted early modern kingship. Y is where and what you make of it. Your task is to investigate early modern kingship, and to go to the library and find primary and secondary sources which you use to explain its nature. (1450-1789) Suggested locations to focus on: 16th Century Spain/Italy (Dante, Machiavelli) 14th-16th Century Holy Roman Empire/Italy (Dante, Machiavelli) 16th-17th Century England (More, Locke) Questions you might consider: What did Machiavelli hope his prince would do for Italy? Charles V’s advisor Gattinara loved Dante. What hopes and expectations did he place on the shoulders of Charles V? Why did Thomas More clash with Henry VIII? What is the ideal way to rule and organize society, according to More? What boundaries were ultimately placed upon English absolutism?
Early modern kingship, spanning from 1450 to 1789, was a period of profound political and social transformation in Europe. During this time, the concept of monarchy underwent significant changes, influenced by key thinkers such as Dante Alighieri, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Thomas More. This research paper delves into the complexities of early modern kingship, focusing on the political landscapes of 16th Century Spain/Italy, 14th-16th Century Holy Roman Empire/Italy, and 16th-17th Century England. By examining the writings and philosophies of these influential figures, we aim to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of early modern kingship, the expectations placed on monarchs, and the ideal ways to rule and organize society during this transformative era.
I. Dante Alighieri and Early Modern Kingship
Dante Alighieri, primarily known for his epic poem “The Divine Comedy,” was a medieval figure whose ideas had a lasting impact on early modern kingship (Dante Alighieri, “De Monarchia”). Although his work predates the early modern period, his vision of a just ruler and a well-ordered society resonated with thinkers of the time. Dante’s influence extended to 16th Century Italy, particularly in the context of the city-states.
Dante’s “De Monarchia” provides insights into his ideal vision of a universal monarchy that would bring peace and stability to Italy. His belief in a single, authoritative ruler echoes the aspirations of some early modern monarchs. While Dante’s ideas were not directly implemented, they laid the groundwork for discussions on centralized power and effective governance during the early modern era.
II. Niccolò Machiavelli and the Princely Ideal
Niccolò Machiavelli, a prominent figure of early modern political thought, is best known for his work “The Prince” (Niccolò Machiavelli, “The Prince”). In this seminal work, Machiavelli provides guidance to rulers on acquiring and maintaining power. Although often associated with ruthlessness, Machiavelli’s ideas were deeply rooted in the political realities of his time, especially in 16th Century Italy and Spain.
Machiavelli hoped that his prince would unify Italy and bring an end to foreign domination. His emphasis on pragmatic leadership and the use of power for the greater good became relevant to early modern kings seeking to consolidate their rule. The legacy of Machiavelli’s political realism reverberates through the era as monarchs grappled with the challenges of statecraft.
III. Thomas More’s Utopian Vision and Political Dissent
Thomas More, an English statesman and humanist, is best known for his work “Utopia” (Thomas More, “Utopia”). More’s clash with King Henry VIII over matters of conscience and allegiance exemplifies the tensions between monarchs and their advisors during the early modern period.
More’s “Utopia” presents an idealized society governed by reason, tolerance, and equity. While it serves as a critique of the existing political order, it also raises questions about the role of rulers in creating just societies. More’s legacy in early modern political thought lies in his exploration of alternative forms of governance and his unwavering commitment to principles over power.
IV. The Boundaries of English Absolutism
The 16th and 17th Century English monarchs, including Henry VIII and later rulers like James I and Charles I, grappled with the concept of absolutism. The English Civil War and the subsequent Glorious Revolution demonstrated the limitations on absolute monarchy in England.
The Magna Carta, English Common Law, and the development of constitutionalism all played crucial roles in shaping the boundaries of English absolutism. Early modern England serves as a fascinating case study in the evolution of kingship and the balance of power between monarchs and other political institutions.
Early modern kingship was a dynamic and transformative period in European history, characterized by shifting political landscapes, intellectual ferment, and the clash of ideals and realities. Dante Alighieri’s vision of a just ruler, Niccolò Machiavelli’s pragmatic advice, and Thomas More’s quest for a utopian society all contributed to the complex tapestry of early modern political thought.
This research paper has explored the impact of these thinkers on early modern kingship, with a focus on the regions of 16th Century Spain/Italy, 14th-16th Century Holy Roman Empire/Italy, and 16th-17th Century England. By examining their writings and ideas, we have gained valuable insights into the nature of early modern kingship, the expectations placed on monarchs, and the enduring quest for the ideal way to rule and organize society.
Dante Alighieri. “De Monarchia.”
Niccolò Machiavelli. “The Prince.”
Thomas More. “Utopia.”
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