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2013 San Diego Josephine Waters Bennett Lecture
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When: 4/6/2013
Saturday, 6 April 2013, 7:00–8:00 p.m.
Where: Sheraton Marina Tower, Lobby Level, Grande Ballroom

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Josephine Waters Bennett Lecture

Sponsor: Renaissance Society of America

John M. Najemy, Cornell University

Machiavelli and History

History is the foundation of Machiavelli’s thought. He theorized contemporary dilemmas through the lens of history and approached history in order to illuminate the etiology of modern ills. Yet history itself was an unsettled concept for him. Inheriting, but never fully sharing, Renaissance ideas about the superiority and emulation of antiquity, Machiavelli worried about the fragmentary nature of historical knowledge and the elusiveness of historical truth. Moreover, his writings contain many and often conflicting theories of history, among them cyclical recurrence, the constancy of human passions, the influences of the heavens, the dominance of fortune, laws of nature, and the succession of empires. In asking why Machiavelli entertained such a variety of diverse interpretations of history, I suggest that they function in his texts as traces of seductive and consoling fictions that he (and others) sometimes found appealing when facing Italy’s woes and the seeming unintelligibility and irrationality of history.

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