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Dissimulation and the Culture of Secrecy in Early Modern Europe

Dissimulation and the Culture of Secrecy in Early Modern Europe

Jon R. Snyder
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Dissimulation and the Culture of Secrecy in Early Modern Europe
    Book Description:

    “Larvatus prodeo,” announced René Descartes at the beginning of the seventeenth century: “I come forward, masked.” Deliberately disguising or silencing their most intimate thoughts and emotions, many early modern Europeans besides Descartes-princes, courtiers, aristocrats and commoners alike-chose to practice the shadowy art of dissimulation. For men and women who could not risk revealing their inner lives to those around them, this art of incommunicativity was crucial, both personally and politically. Many writers and intellectuals sought to explain, expose, justify, or condemn the emergence of this new culture of secrecy, and from Naples to the Netherlands controversy swirled for two centuries around the powers and limits of dissimulation, whether in affairs of state or affairs of the heart. This beautifully written work crisscrosses Europe, with a special focus on Italy, to explore attitudes toward the art of dissimulation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Discussing many canonical and lesser-known works, Jon R. Snyder examines the treatment of dissimulation in early modern treatises and writings on the court, civility, moral philosophy, political theory, and in the visual arts.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94444-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. PREFACE: Lost Horizons
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Not Empty Silence The Age of Dissimulation
    (pp. 1-26)

    It was an evening in early January 1612, and the city of Turin was in the frigid grip of the Po Valley winter. Vespers were long past and the streets were dark and silent, but not everyone was asleep. Alessandro Anguissola, Count of San Giorgio and Lord of Cimmafava, was in his chambers, where he was often to be found when not engaged in his official duties. Anguissola, who had served since 1601 as Serenissimi Ducis Sabaudiae Consiliarius (Counselor to His Most Serene Highness the Duke of Savoy) at the court of Charles Emmanuel I, the Duke of Turin and...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Taking One’s Distance Civil and Moral Dissimulation
    (pp. 27-67)

    Early modern civility is inextricably linked to the civilizing process itself. Over the past few decades the reception of Norbert Elias’sÜber den Prozess der Zivilisation(The civilizing process), which first put forward this theorem, has not been without controversy among scholars.¹ The gradual, incremental standardization of self-constraint among elite groups across Europe between the end of the Middle Ages and the end of the Old Regime is by now widely accepted as an indicator of the civilizing process first defined by Elias.² It is still an open question, however, if conduct books—as opposed to socially instilled thresholds of...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Confidence Games Dissimulation at Court
    (pp. 68-105)

    The Italian Wars (1494–1559) shattered the system of city-states that had long maintained a balance of power on the peninsula, replacing it by and large with the Old Regime patchwork of absolutist states. Across Italy there arose dynasties dominated by a single figure, thesignoreor prince, who surrounded himself with an entourage of courtiers to whom he accorded honor, distinction, and wealth and from whom he demanded participation in increasingly elaborate court ceremonials and ritual acts that recognized and sanctioned his authority. Although the court was hardly a new phenomenon in Italy or elsewhere, under absolutism its importance...

  9. CHAPTER 4 The Government of Designs Dissimulation and Reason of State
    (pp. 106-158)

    This chapter traces the transformation occurring over the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the discourse on dissimulation as it concerns the doctrine of “reason of state.” For the sovereigns of the Quattrocento and their humanist counselors, there had seemed to be an obvious (if often unobserved) bond between ethics and politics.¹ The political theorists of absolutism, however, made the maintenance of the state in a world of radical mutability the basis of the doctrine ofragion di stato,raison d’état,ratio status,ius dominationis, or reason of state. They were keenly aware of the social and political...

  10. CHAPTER 5 The Writing on the Walls
    (pp. 159-178)

    Even in those Old Regime states in which the rule of dissimulation was most deeply rooted, there were the stirrings of change by the middle years of the seventeenth century. Anti-court sentiments ran high in many places, although the courts continued to grow in size and influence. Six major rebellions rocked Europe in the decade of 1640–1650, weakening the foundations of reason-of-state doctrine. Although the transnational standards of civility seemed secure among the dominant groups, the private sphere began to develop rapidly in some of the most economically advanced parts of Europe (such as Holland), leading tp the first...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 179-252)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 253-272)
  13. Index
    (pp. 273-280)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-282)