Muratori, Ludovicoantonio (1672–1750)

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MURATORI, LUDOVICOANTONIO (16721750), Italian historian, reformer, and ecclesiastic. Probably the most important figure of the early Italian Enlightenment, Muratori at first pursued erudition and cultural reform as separate areas. Following his education in civil and canon law at the University of Modena, he became involved in the movement, sponsored by the Rome-based Accademia degli Arcadi, to redeem literature from the supposed decadence of the seventeenth century. Meanwhile, he learned Greek and Latin paleography from the Benedictine scholar Benedetto Bacchini (16511721), a disciple of the pioneer medievalist Jean Mabillon (16321707). Soon after the turn of the seventeenth century, he began to think that effective reform of civil life could only come from a reinforced Christianity and an accurate understanding of the emergence of modern institutions from those of the pastthe ancient pastand even more pertinently, the medieval past in which they were really rooted. He thus repudiated the Arcadi and began his own movement, whose major tenets he explained in I Primi disegni della repubblica letteraria (1703; First designs of a literary republic).

Following his appointment as librarian at the Ambrosiana in Milan, he became ducal librarian and archivist for the Este family in Modena. In this position, where he remained for the rest of his life, he published a remarkable body of works aimed at excavating the unknown medieval roots of the societies all over the Italian peninsula, culminating in the twenty-eight-volume Rerum italicarum scriptores (17231751), still a primary source on the Italian Middle Ages. Meanwhile, drawing upon this and other scholarly foundations, he published a series of influential polemics on contemporary civil society designed to provide guides for the enlightened monarch and for the enlightened citizen alike.

To the monarchs, he directed a searing attack on current legal systems (Dei difetti delle giurisprudenza [On the defects of jurisprudence], 1742), advocating simplification and codification of law and reform of procedure. He argued for better systems of public health, denounced economic differences, and called for more equitable systems of taxation (Della pubblica felicità oggetto de' buoni principi [On public happiness, the object of good princes], 1749). He called for removal of inheritance practices that prevented large quantities of land from being cultivated efficiently, advocated a reduction in the number of feast days so the poor would be able to earn more money working in the fields, and urged governments to sponsor agricultural improvements as well. To both the monarch and the citizen, he tried to show that Christianity properly understoodinformed by sacred and profane learning, supportive of creativity, constructively encouraging the duties of all, responsive to human needs, and freed from distracting and irrelevant practicescould lead to both spiritual and material well-being (Della regolata devozione de' Cristiani [On the moderate devotion of Christians], 1747). In spite of disagreement with Muratori's respect for church traditions, more radical figures like Pietro Giannone built upon the solid foundation he provided. His last great project was a monumental history of Italy to his own time (Annali d'Italia, 12 vols., 17441749), reiterating many of the great themes of his life's work.

See also Enlightenment ; Giannone, Pietro .


Primary Source

Opere. Edited by Giorgio Falco and Fiorenzo Forti. 2 vols. Milan-Naples, 1964.

Secondary Source

Bertelli, Sergio. Erudizione e storia in Ludovico Antonio Muratori. Naples, 1960.

Brendan Dooley