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Debating Greatness from Machiavelli to Burton

Citation: Miglietti, Sara (2016) Debating Greatness from Machiavelli to Burton. In: Early Modern Philosophers and the Renaissance Legacy, ed. Cecilia Muratori and Gianni Paganini. Springer, Dordrecht.

Miglietti_Debating Greatness from Machiavelli to Burton.pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

From early humanist treatises on city government in Italy to Rousseau’s "Social Contract", “greatness” (grandezza, grandeza, grandeur) was often presented as both the aim that political communities should pursue and the touchstone to measure their relative success. But what exactly should be understood by “greatness”, and how could it be achieved? Although most authors agreed that it took more than a large territory for a state to be truly “great”, they all seemed to prioritise different things: political liberty, military strength, material wealth, absence of strife, a solid social and political order, or the happiness and overall wellbeing of the citizens. In an age of state- and empire-building, the debate on the nature of political “greatness” raised critical questions and contributed to shaping the agenda and the self-representation of European powers. By concentrating on a few selected thinkers (Machiavelli, Bodin, Botero, Bacon, Burton) whose works form a complex network of mutual influences, this chapter seeks to investigate an exemplary case of unceasing dialogue between the Renaissance and the early modern period.

Creators: Miglietti, Sara (0000-0003-2872-1400) and
Subjects: Classics
Culture, Language & Literature
Divisions: Warburg Institute
  • 1 January 2016 (accepted)


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