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v2.1 Reference

The Jesuits and Italian Universities, 1548-1773

The Society of Jesus arrived in Italy in 1540 brimming with enthusiasm to found new universities. These would be better than Italian universities, which the Jesuits believed were full of professors teaching philosophical atheism to debauched students. The Jesuits also wanted to become professors in existing Italian universities. They would teach Christian philosophy, true theology, sound logic, eloquent humanities, and practical mathematics. They would exert a positive moral influence on students.

The Jesuits were rejected. Italy already had fourteen universities famous for their research and teaching. They were ruled by princes and cities who refused to share their universities with a religious order led by Spaniards. Between 1548 and 1773 the Jesuits made sixteen attempts, from Turin in the north to Messina in Sicily, to found new universities or to become professors in existing universities. They had some successes, as they helped found four new universities and became professors of mathematics in three more universities. But they suffered nine total failures. The battles between universities, civil governments, and the Jesuits were memorable. Lay professors accused the Jesuits of teaching philosophy badly. The Jesuits charged that Italian professors delivered few lectures and skipped most of Aristotle. Behind the denunciations were profound differences about what universities should be.

Italian universities were dominated by law and the Jesuits emphasized the humanities and theology. Nevertheless, the Society of Jesus had an impact. They added cases of conscience to the training of clergymen. They made four years of study the norm for a degree in theology. They offered a student-centered alternative to Italian universities that focused on research and ignored student misbehavior.

Paul Grendler tells a new story based on years of research in a dozen archives. Anyone interested in the volatile mix of universities, religion, and politics will find this book fascinating and instructive, as will anyone who contemplates what it means to be a Catholic university.

About the Authors

Paul F. Grendler is professor of history emeritus at the University of Toronto


"Those interested in the history of European education and the Society of Jesus will find much to glean from this book."—Patrick J. Hayes, Catholic Library World

"One of the several strengths of this authoritative study, by the doyen of the history of Italian education in the Renaissance, is the author's attention to local context matched to a peerless command of detail, based on long acquaintance with both the archival record and the secondary literature which must make this the definitive account... The wait for the completion of this magnificent triptych has been well worth it."—Simon Ditchfield, University of York, Journal of Jesuit Studies

"The fruits of the author's archival research are presented with great clarity and prudent scholarly judgment This book will nevertheless be foundational for some time to come."—Gilles Mongeau, Regis College at the University of Toronto, Renaissance and Reformation

"The Jesuits and Italian Universities is a meticulously researched and valuable contribution to several historical fieldsGrendler's The Jusuits and Italian Universities succeeds in a number of ways. His deep dive into local archives reveals more detailed information about the attempts to establish Jesuit Universities than previously available, and his insights into the Jesuit educational program sheds ilght on the Order's educational and religious goals."—Seth A. Parry, Belhaven University, Journal of the Conference on Faith and History

"This masterful study examines, for the first time, the efforts of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) to found, or teach in, universities in 16 Italian citiesThis book reveals a mastery of archival and printed sources as well as of the secondary scholarship."—P.W. Knoll, emeritus, University of Southern California, CHOICE

"One can learn a great deal from this book. It is especially useful for its discussion of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which are so often ignored in modern scholarship."—Lines, David A., American Historical Review

"The Jesuits and Italian Universities 1548-1773, like all Professor Grendler's works, is a model of thorough reseach. Few scholars are as well acquainted as Grendler with the workings of Catholic universities in the early modern period and his clear presentation of the different academies in a thoroughly fragmented area is most rewarding."—Hamilton, Alastair, Church History and Religious Culture

"The Jesuits and Italian Universities 1548-1773 is one of those books that readers love: simple and clear in its internal organization, extremely well-researched, and beautifully written. The fruit of impressive research in Italian archives and an extensive reading of the international scholarship, Paul Grendler has written a volume that addresses a topic that is crucial for the history of education, the history of culture in early modern Italy, and the history of the Society of Jesus. The picture that emerges from the book might be the basis for a reassessment of the present scholarship."—Colombo, Emanuele, Jesuit Higher Education

"The most significant contribution of this work is that it tells the story of the encounter between the Jesuits and Italian universities for the first time, setting the foundations for further research and scholarship. The fruits of the author's archival research are presented with great clarity and prudent scholarly judgment. The focus on the political and social forces at work is consistent throughout, lending solidity to the conclusions the author draws from his study of the documentary evidence."—Mongeau, Gilles, Renaissance and Reformation

"A work that will remain indispensable for a long time...Grendler is one of the leading experts in Italian and Paduan university history in particular, as well as in Jesuit pedagogy."—Archivio Veneto

The Catholic University of America Press

9780813229362 : the-jesuits-and-italian-universities-1548-1773-grendler-grendler
Paperback / softback
480 Pages
$34.95 USD

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The Universities of the Italian Renaissance

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