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The University of Mantua, the Gonzaga, and the Jesuits, 1584–1630

Universities were driving forces of change in late Renaissance Italy. The Gonzaga, the ruling family of Mantua, had long supported scholarship and dreamed of founding an institution of higher learning within the city. In the early seventeenth century they joined forces with the Jesuits, a powerful intellectual and religious force, to found one of the most innovative universities of the time.

Paul F. Grendler provides the first book in any language about the Peaceful University of Mantua, its official name. He traces the efforts of Duke Ferdinando Gonzaga, a prince savant who debated Galileo, as he made his family’s dream a reality. Ferdinando negotiated with the Jesuits, recruited professors, and financed the school. Grendler examines the motivations of the Gonzaga and the Jesuits in the establishment of a joint civic and Jesuit university.

The University of Mantua lasted only six years, lost during the brutal sack of the city by German troops in 1630. Despite its short life, the university offered original scholarship and teaching. It had the first professorship of chemistry more than 100 years before any other Italian university. The leading professor of medicine identified the symptoms of angina pectoris 140 years before an English scholar named the disease. The star law professor advanced new legal theories while secretly spying for James I of England. The Jesuits taught humanities, philosophy, and theology in ways both similar to and different from lay professors.

A superlative study of education, politics, and culture in seventeenth-century Italy, this book reconsiders a period in Italy’s history often characterized as one of feckless rulers and stagnant learning. Thanks to extensive archival research and a thorough examination of the published works of the university's professors, Grendler's history tells a new story.

About the Author

Paul F. Grendler is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Toronto and former president of the Renaissance Society of America. He is the editor-in-chief of the prize-winning Encyclopedia of the Renaissance and author of nine books, including Schooling in Renaissance Italy and The Universities of the Italian Renaissance, both winners of the American Historical Association's Howard R. Marraro Prize for Italian History and both published by Johns Hopkins.

Endorsements

"Not only is this the first study of the university, but the deepest study of the relationship between an Italian family and the university it founded. I will certainly add this book to my shelf."

- Kathleen Comerford, Georgia Southern University

Reviewss

"Does a university that lasted only six years deserve a full-length academic study? In this case, the answer is clearly yes... Highly recommended."

- Choice

"A good professional piece of work."

- Robert Black

"Grendler's book provides a wealth of new information... Written by one of the most erudite scholars of Italian Renaissance education, this story of a failed institution is an unqualified success."

- David D'Andrea - Sixteenth Century Journal

"His study of the university and its connections with both the Society of Jesus and the Gonzaga, the noble family that ruled Mantua for generations, is meticulously researched and exquisitely detailed, and provides readers with a richly-textured exploration of political and intellectual life in northern Italy."

- Mark A. Waddell - Canadian Journal of History

"Shapin's indubitable reputation remains... untouched for inspiring fruitful and controversial debates in the community of the historians of science."

- Lavinia Maddaluno - Nuncius

"Reading Grendler's reconstruction of this courtly and intellectual adventure, we get the impression that we are witnessing a complex and carefully arranged experiment for testing the compatibility of the most representative elements of a cultural milieu."

- Susana Gomez - Isis
Johns Hopkins University Press
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Other Titles by Paul F. Grendler

The Jesuits and Italian Universities 1548-1773

Paul F Grendler
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The Universities of the Italian Renaissance

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Sep 2004 - Johns Hopkins University Press
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Schooling in Renaissance Italy

Paul F. Grendler
Mar 1991 - Johns Hopkins University Press
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