IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > B. Early Modern Europe, 1479–1815 > 5. National Patterns, 1648–1815 > e. Italy and the Papacy
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1623–44)
e. Italy and the Papacy
1. Overview
Economy and Society: The general crisis of the 17th century weakened the basis of Italian economic development. Population growth stagnated as a result of plague and famine. Trade with the east suffered from the war with the Ottoman empire and the decline of the Mediterranean spice trade. Holland and England, situated on the western European coast, developed seaborne trade routes that took advantage of both eastern and western trade opportunities and contributed to the decline of the Italian economy. Italian production also declined dramatically. Investment in Italy had been concentrated in luxury goods and buildings rather than trade and capital development. In some parts of Italy, investment in land led to agricultural changes, increased the number of acres in production, and encouraged a shift from crops such as millet to rye or wheat.  1
In the 18th century, Italy experienced a gradual recovery. It switched crops and lifted trade barriers. Population increased, especially in the countryside. Reforms in education, gradual decline of the power of the papacy, and introduction of some manufacturing innovations all spurred this recovery.  2
Italian towns continued to be controlled by small, often hereditary oligarchies while the countryside remained dominated by large landowners. The Italian nobility sometimes proved capable of significant innovation. Peasants protested taxation and overbearing policies, which led to an 18th-century age of reform fueled by Enlightenment thinking.  3
CULTURE: In music Italy was outstanding. Niccolò Amati (1596–1684) and Antonio Stradivari (1644–1737); in opera, Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643) and Giovanni Pergolesi (1710–36), Domenico Cimarosa (1749–1801), and Giovanni Paisiello (1741–1816). Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583–1643), composer of organ music; Arcangelo Corelli (1653–1713), eminent violinist and composer of sonatas and concerti grossi; Alessandro Scarlatti (1659–1725), of operas; and Antonio Vivaldi (c. 1678–1741), of chamber music. Two great schools of music at Venice and Naples.  4
Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680), architect and sculptor, was one of the leading artists of the Baroque period, which preceded the Rococco of the 18th century and the classical revival represented by Antonio Canova (1757–1822). Bernini designed and built the Vatican Palace and St. Peter's Square, while Francesco Borromini (1599–1667) reconstructed St. John Lateran and built other Roman churches.  5
In painting, Giambattista Tiepolo (1696–1770) for a time brought Venice a final burst of glory.  6
The Academy of Arcadia (1692) started a widespread vogue of the conventional and artificial in literature, which was counterbalanced by the comedies of Carlo Goldoni (1707–93) and the serious patriotic dramas of Vittorio Alfieri (1749–1803). A return to classicism was apparent in the dramas of Goldoni and in the work of Alfierie and poetry of Gaicomo Leopardi (1798–1837).  7
Italy was preeminent also in the fields of social and physical science. Pietro Giannone (1676–1748) created a profound stir with his anticlerical Historia civile del regno di Napoli (1723); Antonio Genovesi (1713–69) was an outstanding physiocrat; Giambattista Vico (1668–1744), with his Scienza nuova (1725), laid the basis of the modern philosophy of history; while Cesare Beccaria (1738–94) in his Dei delitti e delle pene (1764) founded the modern science of penology. In the natural sciences Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729–99) made fundamental contributions to the study of digestion, while Luigi Galvani (1737–98) and Alessandro Volta (1745–1827) were in the front rank among the pioneers of electricity.  8
Politics: Italy remained divided between 1648 and 1815, different regions coming under the control of various monarchies in Europe. However, regions dominated by the Bourbons and the Habsburgs experienced an age of reform fueled by Enlightenment thinking during the 18th century. (See The Italian States)  9
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.