The Italian Academic Movement and the Republic of Letters

  • Simone Testa
Part of the Italian and Italian American Studies book series (IIAS)


Scholarship about the social and intellectual phenomenon defined as République des lettres,1 or Republic of Letters, has neglected the importance of the Italian academic movement as a predecessor of the phenomenon. In my view, we should not see the two as separate movements. Instead, we should consider the exceptional spread of academies throughout the Italian peninsula as the first instance of the Republic of Letters and its European reach. Although research is showing that learned sociability existed outside Italy,2 and before the beginning of the Italian academic movement, the level of connections, social and cultural diversity, and mobility of the academic movement could not be found elsewhere. From a methodological point of view, my proposal to see the network that shaped the Italian academies as a social phenomenon that preceded the Republic of Letters originates from the famous interpretation put forward by the English historian Garrett Mat-tingly with regard to the rise of modern diplomacy. Historians commonly accept Mattingly’s view that Italian regional states were a model, in terms of diplomatic practices,3 that was later imitated by the rest of Europe. Notwithstanding the differences between the two phenomena, it is difficult not to see continuity between the Italian academic movement and the Republic of Letters, in particular when we consider how powerful the custom of creating private academies was for the promotion of cultural exchange between like-minded individuals.


Seventeenth Century French Historian French Scholar Roman Republic Mathematical Collection 
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