Muratori, Ludovico Antonio

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Muratori, Ludovico Antonio (1672-1750): Italian Historian and Theologian.

Ludovico Muratori is considered the founder of Italian historiography as well as a major influence on the development of modern scientific historiography with its emphasis on the careful use of documents.

A bright and highly promising student, at 22, Muratori had earned degrees in both philosophy and law from the University of Modena, but turned to the study of history and literature. In 1695, he was ordained and appointed to the Ambrosian Library in Milan, where he began his work as a serious historian. After five years in Milan, he was recalled to Modena by the Duke of Este where he resided for the rest of his life. Muratori was able to keep abreast of the major trends and issues in Europe by means of an active and extensive correspondence with some 2000 correspondents throughout the continent, including Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.

As a cleric, Muratori’s advocacy of religious and legal reform made him a major figure of the Catholic Enlightenment in Italy. His work Della Regolata Divizione dei Cristiani in 1747 was widely admired by liberal ecclesiastics on the peninsula.

Muratori’s main claim to fame, however, was as an historian. Deeply influenced by the Benedictine approach to history with its emphasis on massive scholarly tomes based on careful consideration of archival evidence, Muratori’s contributions include both the collection of historical documents and his own scholarly writings. His Rerum italicarum scriptores, published in 28 volumes from 1723 to 1751, was a collection of historical materials drawn from libraries and archives all over Italy. Due to the jealousies and fears of local rulers, the compilation of this work required considerable persistence on his part. As for his own scholarly writings, his most important works were the Annali d’Italia, published in 12 volumes from 1744 to 1749 and his seventy five Dissertazioni sopra le antichita italiana, issued posthumously from 1751 to 1755. Muratori’s historical work was inspired by his desire to instill a sense of national pride and unity in the Italian people. Rather than looking back to the universal heritage of Rome, Muratori located the source of modern Italy in the Middle Ages, while still acknowledging its continuity with earlier periods.

Further Reading:

Emiliana Pasca Noether, Seeds of Italian Nationalism 1700-1815, 1969.

Kevin E. Dodson

Lamar University

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