Guicciardini, Francesco

Guicciardini, Francesco

(fränchās`kō gwēt-chärdē`nē), 1483–1540, Italian historian and statesman. He represented (1512–14) his native Florence at the court of Spain, held offices in the Florentine government, and in 1516 entered the service of Pope Leo X. An able administrator, he was appointed governor of Modena (1516), commissary of the papal army (1521), and president of the Romagna (1524). After 1527, when he lost his high office as a result of the invasion of the papal states by the army of Emperor Charles V, Guicciardini devoted himself chiefly to writing. Breaking with medieval tradition, he removed history from the realm of literature and related it to the development of states. His history of Italy, written in his maturity and covering the period 1492–1534 (the period of the Italian Wars), is the masterwork of Italian historical literature of the Renaissance. It is distinguished by its clear-eyed analysis of motives, events, and persons. A follower of Machiavelli, Guicciardini has been accused of cynical realism. His history of Florence from 1378 to 1509, written in his youth, was published in 1859. It is marked by extreme simplicity and directness of style. Guicciardini also wrote a collection of maxims, translated as Counsels and Reflections (1890).

Bibliography

See studies by F. Gilbert (1965) and R. Ridolfi (1968).

Guicciardini, Francesco

 

Born Mar. 6, 1483, in Florence; died May 22, 1540, in Arcetri. Italian historian, humanist philosopher, and statesman. From 1511 to 1514 ambassador of Florence in Spain and from 1516 to 1534 successively papal governor in Modena, Romagna, and Bologna.

In the History of Italy (written in 1537-40), Guicciardini presented the history not of the separate Italian states but of the entire country as a whole, and he advocated the national and state unification of Italy. The basic propellant of history he held to be the selfish motivations of individuals. Being an ideologist of the early bourgeoisie, he developed an ethical doctrine of advantage as the basis of mutual utility; believing in the necessity of adapting to circumstances, he considered the use of any means entirely admissible for the attainment of political ends, and he was guided by this principle in his actions. Guicciardini was a partisan of oligarchic-republican rule and an adversary of popular participation in government (Dialogue on the Governing of Florence, written in 1525). He argued for the comprehensive development of the individual, who, as he saw it, found himself surrounded by constant cyclical social change. He was an opponent of astrology; in his works he criticized monastic hypocrisy, the papacy, and the church and offered a scheme for replacing religion with mutual relations of neighborly advantage (Political and Civil Notes, written in 1525-29, carefully concealed by him, and published in 1576).

WORKS

Opere. Milan-Naples [1953].
Carteggi … , vols. 1-13. Milan, 1938-68.
In Russian translation:
Soch. Moscow-Leningrad, 1934.

REFERENCES

Samarkin, V. V. “K voprosu o formirovanii politicheskikh vzgliadov F. Gvichchardini.” Vestnik Moscovskogo un-ta, 1960, no. 5, series 9, Iistoricheskie nauki.
Rutenburg, V. I. “Gvichchardini.” In the collection Ital’ianskoe Vozrozhdenie. [Leningrad] 1966.

V. I. RUTENBURG

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