October 27, 2007

The downfall of science in Italy

I was wondering what impact Galileo's conviction had on science in Italy, so I took a look at the database Charles Murray sent me of the 4002 eminent artists and scientists he compiled from leading reference books for his 2003 book Human Accomplishment.

From 1000 AD to Galileo's conviction in 1632, Italy furnished 34.7% of the world's scientific eminence. From then up through 1950, it only accounted for 3.46%. Now that's what I call an order of magnitude!

Italian contributions to science (measured at the scientist's 40th birthday) continued on fairly strong for the rest of the 17th Century, so the Galileo trial impact wasn't immediate. Of course, the 17th Century was like Andy Warhol's factory -- everybody was a genius! (Except, in the 17th Century there really were geniuses throughout Europe). But, in Italy slowly things sloooowed down, as they sped up elsewhere.

We're not used to things getting more boring and unproductive, but it has been a common tendency throughout history, and one we may get familiar with again.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

44 comments:

Steve said...

Hmm ... first of all, if the "decline" was slow, then how can it be definitively linked to Galileo's conviction?

Wouldn't Italy's proportion of eminent scientists naturally decrease as Western civilisation expanded across the globe?

What happens to the "world scientific eminence" proportion of other countries in the same period?

Finally, while Italy's scientific eminence may have declined, I doubt it has ever been "boring" ;-)

Anonymous said...

The causation here is not very convincing, not at level of detail you've provided. With or without Galileo, Italy gradually fell into stagnation after the Renaissance - economically, artistically, politically (in so far as one can evaluate that - it became a land of sleepy oligarchies), as well as scientifically.

Look at the comparative level of urbanization (which is a proxy for economic dynamism in this time period). According to my Penguin historical atlases, Italy had 2 of the 6 largest cities in Europe around 1000 AD; 7 out of 12 in 1200; 9 out of 22 in 1500; 13 out of 50 in 1600; 14 out of 70 in 1715; and 19 out of 118 in 1815. The Italian tiger became the Italian scrawny, mangy alley cat. It's not surprising that intellectual and economic vigour should correlate.

If you want to show a specific Galileo effect, you'd want to show a sharp drop just around 1632, but you've stated that this didn't happen. How likely is it that scientists in the 1640s and 50s, when the trial was a living memory, weren't affected by "auto-da-fe chill", but around 1700 their grandchildren suddenly are? I have a vague impression that the Galileo trial didn't become an intellectual icon until the 19th century, when it became of fixture of atheistic, anti-clerical, and anti-Catholic polemics.

intellectual pariah

Made up name said...

Are we seriously saying that Italy after Galileo was less restrictive than medieval Italy?

Italy had both more people in cities and more monasteries than the rest of Europe at the time. Italy had comparatively fewer cities (and people) than the rest of Europe after the reformation, and the church became less important.

Anonymous said...

Italy was one of the richest regions in the world in the 16th century, but had fallen way behind by the end of the 17th century (in relative terms, compared to Britain, the Netherlands etc). France, which remained Catholic (and even kicked out the Huguenots) seems to have remained relatively rich and scientifically productive during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Venetian Republic protected its scientists from the Pope (Galileo would have been OK had he remained in Padua), but declined as a scientific center as trade moved to the Atlantic. Hard to claim causality for the Galileo's trial - looks like its effects got mixed up with deeper long-term geopolitical and economic trends.

Anonymous said...

Did the lysenkoist persecution of geneticists in the URSS thwart soviet scientific advancement in other areas? The Sputnik says no.

Also, the death of Socrates did not seem to stymie the development of greek philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Italy was one of the richest regions in the world in the 16th century, but had fallen way behind by the end of the 17th century (in relative terms, compared to Britain, the Netherlands etc). France, which remained Catholic (and even kicked out the Huguenots) seems to have remained relatively rich and scientifically productive during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Venetian Republic protected its scientists from the Pope (Galileo would have been OK had he remained in Padua), but declined as a scientific center as trade moved to the Atlantic. Hard to claim causality for the Galileo's trial - looks like its effects got mixed up with deeper long-term geopolitical and economic trends.

Anonymous said...

Come on Steve, the 35% was not natural. Northern Italy was for some time one of the two richest parts of Europe. Later the rest caught up.

3,5% is pretty good given that Italy has less than 1% of world population.

Italy got 20 nobel prizes during the last 100 years, which is not great but decent (France 55, Russia 22, Japan 12, US 300+)

Evil Neocon said...

Steve --

I'd take issue with a couple of your built-in assumptions.

1. That it was the Catholic Church cracking down on Gallileo that killed Italy's ability to produce technical innovation.

A more likely explanation is that turmoil politically -- with Spain and France constantly intervening in Italian city-state affairs, and a decline in the economies as trade shifted from the Med to the Atlantic making an end-run around the Turks to get spices and such, caused a long-term economic decline in favor of wealthy trading nations such as the Netherlands, England, and France. Both France and Spain during the period you mention had constant military presences stirring up wars in Italy, causing a lot of disruption.

Lesson: a nation's strength is deeply tied to it's economic productivity which in turn needs both some measure of stability (having your city sacked is bad for the economy) and trade.

2. Assumption Two is that we are headed for a period of boring stability through PC stagnation.

Nothing could be more unlikely given current indicators. CHEAP oil seems past, as Saudi and other Gulf countries run out of easily exploitable oil fields. We will still have plenty of oil -- the US and Canadian oil shales for example exceed Saudi's reserves by orders of magnitude but the cheapness seems gone --

Which will erode the advantage of "cheap labor" nations such as China, India, and Latin America. When energy is expensive a premium is put on highly efficient, productive economies which those places are decidedly NOT (and will take half a century to become).

This will also erode trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic trade, as cost of shipping becomes much more expensive. Making "cheap stuff" out of Wal-Mart and made in China, shipped across the Pacific for pennies on the pound, a thing of the past. Needless to say, developed economies have been built on supplying cheap consumerism stuff as has the US economy and it seems to be ending.

That's just the base economic changes. Not to mention the ongoing struggle since, say 1965 in the West over the Elite's attempt to replace the ordinary people with another.

The "secret sauce" of the West is likely the ability to harness the vast productive power of the Beta Male (those boring engineers with pocket protectors) not the hip Big Men and their acolytes.

If anything, innovation is likely to increase as small, stable, ethnically homogeneous places seek advantage in high-energy-cost economies. I'd expect even more innovation in Japan, and places like Finland or Israel. The US, and most of Western Europe is an open question.

John East said...

I am unfortunate enough to have lived through the decline of Western science, although perhaps I should be grateful that at least I was inspired by the last days of optimism in the 1950/60’s, when the future promised ever expanding horizons thanks to science and technologyand, and went on to enjoy a scientific career. Now, with the exception of global warming scientists, a dour unimaginative bunch all singing from the same approved hymn sheet, to admit to being a scientist in polite company invites criticism and disapproval from the assorted greenies and new agers that may be present.

The West today is obsessed with navel gazing, mired in self loathing and guilt, and hates progress.

Perhaps the Chinese will now step forward and take up where we left off?

Anonymous said...

"Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance.
In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

- Harry Lime in "The Third Man"

Roger said...

Why are you blaming this on the trial of Galileo? The more obvious conclusion is that Italian Science was at its best when it was dominated by the Catholic Church.

Bill said...

The same thing happened in China during the Song dynasty, when the empire began to look inward and shut itself off from the outside world, although there weren't any dramatic incidents such as Galileo's trial.

What tends to happen is that the dynamic kind of society that produces great material advances, such as Tang China or Renaissance Italy, sets itself up for its own unravelling precisely because it is outward-looking. Social problems are ignored until they weaken society to the point where it either falls apart or clamps down on the independent spirit that fosters advances.

I think we're right on the verge of such a shift here in the US. I was listening to NPR today at noon (KUOW Seattle), and they were joking about lesbian three-year-olds and discussing some unicorn show that features a gay eight-year-old boy. Good thing my daughter, who was in the car with me, is still too little to get it. To me, this says the game's just about over. This country is becoming a campy joke.

Watson's from a different era. The politically correct who are feeling their oats as they pile up on him don't even realize that the spirit of independence and free inquiry they are so eagerly stripping from their own discipline is the only thing that they could possibly appeal to when people finally get tired of them.

colin laney said...

You know, Steve, Italy is an especially fascinating case. I hope that this post is just an opening salvo for you, and that you give the development of Italy some real historical thought, as many great minds have puzzled over the question for more than a century, and have pretty much produced nothing.

I make an exception for Luigi Barzini's fine book, "The Italians", but even that work - which I regard as an indispensible starting point for understanding this fascinating nation - basically concludes that Italians are secretly unhappy because the one thing they want - namely good government - seems to be impossible.

As it happens, I was in Sicily recently and have a note that will appeal to the human biodiversity nerd in you: people on the Eastern half of the island, especially as you approach Syracuse, strongly identify as descendants of the ancient Greeks. They are not childishly jingoistic on the point, as actual modern-day Greeks are, but instead will only reveal the fact once they have established that you are trustworthy. They also are obviously concerned that they are not confused with the people near Palermo, the capital, who they do not regard as sharing a common ancestry with themselves.

Everyone in America will be familiar with the dismissive attitude towards Southern Italians as, basically, human garbage. Though I found that Southern Italy was regarded as a general drain on resources, it's also true that Southern Italians and Sicilians generally were regarded as being very bright - even too bright for their own good. This squares with observations that Barzini made.

Any analysis of Italy is going to come up against the facts of Arab occupation, French occupation, Spanish occupation, Papal power, the Mafia, and Fascism. A side note that may be of interest to you and your readers, and which I'd recommend for analysis is: what is so magical about city-states? The period of Italian cultural and scientific triumph is associated with city states, as is the Greek miracle, Elizabethan London, and - can this really be true? - virtually all of the luminous eruptions of Western genius. I think that question is really worth examining. I'd especially be curious if the high points of cultural creativity of the German speaking peoples was associated with polities that are polises, if you follow me.

Another related question to examine: both Stendahl and Nietszche are on record as believing that "Nowhere does the plant, man, grow more vigorously than in Italy." Any thoughts that you or your commentariat might provide on this perception would also be useful. Scientific output is not the sole criterion of civilization, though I agree that it is tremendously important, as it goes directly to the uncanny level of influence that Italy holds on what is called "Western Civilization". The Roman Empire, with its roads, languages, laws, and trusteeship of Hellenism, is, arguably, the ultimate seed crystal of what we call the West. Medieval Christendom and the Europe formed by the Church is basically Western Civiliztion 2.0 - the only non-Italian admixture is German, for which see "Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity". Finally, what is called "Modern" civilization, the Renaissance and all that follows it, is almost wholly Italian - painting, music, the recovery of Platonic philosophy, etc. How many of Shakespeare's plays take place in Italy? Even modern Capitalism arguably begins in Venice, with banking and accounting practices that emerged in full force there.

That's three successive civilizations that issued forth from one mysterious peninsula. If that weren't enough - or if it seems I'm stacking the deck too much in Italy's favor - you can also consider the 20th century in Europe as yet another civilizational model - Fascist - exported from Italy to Germany. Even if abortive, it is still notable that a fourth civilization came from the same source as the previous three. Of course, I acknowldge that our current civilization - Anglophone hypercapitalism - began in England and the United States, established itself as a major player by the mid twentieth century, triumphed over one rival in 1945 and yet another at the end of the Cold War, essentially becoming the first global civilization.

Still, it is the first "Western" civilization that is not almost wholly Italian in origin. Surely this is a historical fact that requires examination? In addition to the decline of Italy over the past five centuries - which I agree is an important question - we also have to examine their relentless civilizational creativity which ruled Europe in every aspect of its arts, letters, thought, and religious devotions from the conquest of Gaul to the High Renaissance. Honestly, I can't say that I've seen anything else like this in the world record.

Anonymous said...

Is Murray's database available on the Internet?

Anonymous said...

The decline of science in post-
17th C. Italy had little to do
with the Galileo trial; rather:

1. Northern Italy's independent
city states, on the cutting-edge
of innovation from 1000-1600, were
reduced to vassal states of the
Haspburg empire.

2. The entire Mediteranean basin
sunk into economic and demographic
stagnation (actual regression in
most of Spain and the Ottoman
empire) from 1600-1800.

3. Holland, France and England
started sponsoring scientific
research on a scale the Italian
city states could not match, and
the Haspburgs were unwilling to.

Persecution and superstition were
minor factors in explaining
Italy's run of scientific (and
artistic) creativity.
Besides economic crisis and
foreign competition, the most
important change was the
replacement of competitive city-
state rivalry for power and
prestige by a purely parasitic
empire concerned chiefly with
maintaing order and collecting
taxes.

There are certain
parallels with both the Ancient
and Modern Western World, evidently.

James Kabala said...

I understand your motivation here (you're trying to make a Watson analogy), but I'm still skeptical. After all, the Italians were dominant in pretty much everything in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, then declined in everything in the centuries since. I doubt if we can blame for the Galileo case for the lack of post-1700 Dantes, Michelangelos, or Raphaels. Sometimes things like this just move in cycles whose exact causes are beyond human ken. And since you admit the alleged effect didn't kick in for the rest of the century, that's all the more reason to doubt that the effect existed to begin with.

Anonymous said...

All the Galileo comparisons are apt enough. The world's not exactly poised to catapult into betterness upon wider acceptance of Watson's probable truth, but did it vault into a golden age by the promulgation of a counterintuitively-tweaked cosmic model ill-at-ease with prevailing orthodoxies? No. It was just the truth.

Something that may be lost now but obvious in hindsight: considering that the overwhelming majority of the world's population aren't Ashkenazi or white, if we want to pick those, could this plausibly be seen as further cosmic "dethronement" for the vast majority of the world's population? I mean, here our taboo-vanguard are, desperately trying to defend people's "self-image"...as the most exalted of God's creatures, more or less. Looks kind of similar, in a way.

jerzy cow said...

Well there was Volta, Golgi and Marconi, but I can't think of many modern great Italian scientists.

Italy sadly was invaded by many different countries after 1650 including Spain, the Ottoman Empire, France, Austria, and both Germany and the Allies in the latter part of WWII. These invasions were awful for the economic stability generally needed for scientific innovation.

Of course during the 1000 year period from 500BC to 500AD more than 90% of the world's scientific and cultural achievements came from the minds of Italians or Greeks.

Rob said...

The percent of world output dropped, but did Italy's absolute output drop, or did other countries just catch up?

Rob said...

Oh, I almost forgot. One of Watson's unPC, but empirically verifiable contentions was that fat people are happier and more content in their lives. Here we have evidence.

And one day I will learn to hyperlink

http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,22640222-5006007,00.html

James Kabala said...

Well, it seems as if commentators are near-unanimous that this analogy is rather weak.

Colin Laney: In The Godfather (the movie; I've never seen the book), Michael Corleone (or maybe it was his Sicilian interpreter) describes his Sicilian future wife as "a type more Greek than Italian." I don't know if that part of the movie was set in eastern or western Sicily, but I always thought it was an interesting line and I'm glad to learn what the basis for it might have been.

Evil Neocon said...

Bill --

What stands out wrt China is how many innovations were left to die because they had no one to "own" them. Given that many were the product of Eunuchs. The Eunuch-Big Man system seems fairly widespread as it "solves" many issues namely dynastic threats from "young lions" and what to do with those angry young men without women (literally, castrate them). Of course women prefer such a society since sharing the bed and resources of a Big Man pays off more than exclusive access to just an ordinary schmoe.

BUT ... the productive resources of ALL the beta Males mobilized properly will consistently beat that of the Big Man society. Slaves, serfs, and Eunuchs don't fight so well or particularly imaginitively as a man fighting for his own cause. THAT not Guns, Germs, and Steel nor VDH's "Civic Militarism" is the Wests' "secret sauce."

NPR is just a front in the current struggle between the "ordinaries" and the new Court Eunuchs and such. However this is not China and the Eunuchs can't all have it their own way (even on open borders/Amnesty).

One thing stands out as making Italian social life far different that say, English or Dutch social life: the extended Italian family vs. the English/Dutch nuclear family. One provides downside insurance for various threats, but stifles creativity. The other has no downside kin network as "protectors" but enables massive creativity on a societal level. You'll get more DaVincis if you have more ordinary men with opportunities. Obviously Italian social structure changed radically after Da Vinci.

n said...

wintermute,

Wait, who exactly regards southern Italians or Sicilians as "very bright"? Themselves?

Do you think Stendhal and Nietzsche meant Sicily when they wrote Italy? Why should we care what Stendhal or Nietzsche thought about Italy, anyway? Context-free generalizations about nations by historical figures may offer entertainment, but that's about all.

Why are you so eager to tie the Renaissance and ancient Rome to a set of political boundaries established in the 19th century? So you can link them with your ancestors? Are you unaware of the genetic gradient (nevermind the achievement gap) separating N. and S. Italians? Oh, that's right; we should ignore genetics. "Materialism" is to be deprecated.

Your "side note" on city-states stands out as the only tolerable section of your comment, though your observation is hardly original. If you are seriously interested in analyzing the contributions of Rome or Renaissance Italy, rather than aggrandizing an ill-defined, amorphous and "mysterious" "Italy", by all means look at political organization and geography. Also, population movements. "Italians" are not homogenous. Nor did they spring fully-formed out of the Italian soil. Modern Italians are not ancient Romans. Sicilians are not Renaissance Florentines.

patrick said...

The Godfather was set in western Sicily where Greek influence was never as strong as in the east.
Most of the Arab and western European (Lombard, Norman, and Swabian) settlement was in the west, near Palermo.
Syracuse was one of the biggest cities in the Greek world (on the same scale as Athens); it was the hometown of Archimedes.
Greek influence in Sicily lasted a long time in the northeast, which was only "Italianized" (in the linguistic/religious sense)in the early Renaissance.
The monasteries in this region remained loyal to the Greek church until the 1300s or 1400s (probably up to the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition in Sicily.)
Greek was spoken in the vicinity of Messina up to the early 16th century. (The Griko dialect of Greek was spoken in remote areas of Puglia and Calabria into the 20th century).

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kabala. The attempt to make a Galileo/Watson analogy is poor, especially since Watson was not persecuted for his assertion of the double helix structure of DNA. The appropriate analogy may be to J. Robert Oppenheimer, who helped open the nuclear age while subsequently being punished for his political leanings.

Watson could be defended on a number of merits, but calling him "probably America's most distinguished living scientist" is a classic Sailer reach. After the double helix, Watson has not significantly contributed to the research literature. He has since distinguished himself by writing a seminal textbook and heading up a well-renowned research facility. This makes him an accomplished science writer and administrator -- I am not sure how much this makes him "probably America's most distinguished living scientist." =L.

Fred said...

I don't know much about the state of Italian science offhand, but they seem to have a knack for making some high-end products, which implies at least a good pool of engineering talent. Sports cars, motorcycles, firearms, high-tech espresso machines, Geox shoes, etc. There's also an Italian company, the name of which escapes me, that has something like 60% of the market share here for soft ice cream machines, and they supply everything from gourmet ice cream shops to McDonald's.

cabrolet said...

Italy was, is, and apparently always will be hamstrung by their corrupt South. AP just ran an article describing the Mafia skim as 7% of GDP!

Mafia is biggest business in Italy

Again, 7% of GDP. Think about it.

And where do we think the soul of the Mafia lies? Where did this bad seed come from? Is extreme clan loyalty, crypto-Satanism, ingroup-outgroup parasite strategy the mark of Europe or the mark of the other side of the Mediterranean? Iberia was permanently tattooed by the Muslim invaders and their enablers. Sicily/Italy was poisoned also.

dearieme said...

No sage man would disparage the nation that brought the world ice cream.

Anonymous said...

What percentage of Italian scientific thinkers emigrated after the 1600's? Did Murray count Enrico Fermi, for example, as Italian or American?

Justin said...

Don't know enough to comment on the reasons for Italy's fall from dominance. However, Italy still produces prodigious engineering talent today. Italian F1 engine developers are superior to their Japanese counterparts. That is an interesting nut.

Justin

Martin said...

"You'll get more DaVincis if you have more ordinary men with opportunities. Obviously Italian social structure changed radically after Da Vinci."

How is it that Italian social structure changed radically after Da Vinci? News to me, and I'll wager, to most 16th century Italians.

Italy certainly hasn't produced as many notable scientists since the 17th century as has Europe north of the Alps. One notable exception however (and he makes up for a lot of stagnation): Enrico Fermi.

Anonymous said...

"Everyone was a genius in the 17th century". TRUE! It was so easy to be a genius back then. You think up anything and you become famous! "Fred,why are you washing your hands?" "So I dont get germs-duh!" " Good God! What a genius!"

Mark Chicken said...

To begin with, what "Italians"? Even though there has long been a geographical area known as Italy, the nationality we now know as Italians didn't emerge until Garibaldi came along and created it.

If we take Venice for example, its language wasn't Italian. Neither was its population. Venice was a truly multicultural society. It's soldiers and seamen were mainly "Oltramarini", mening people from overseas. Most of those were Slavs, the Croatians and Slovenes of today, the closest natural neighbors of Venice to the east. But also others, like Albanians, Greek etc.

Marco Polo, a citizen of Venice, was born on an island mainly inhabited by Croatians, Corzola, or Korchula. The "better" families of those days had a habit of translating their names, like the pope and royalty still do nowadays.

So Marco Polo, was probably also known by his Slavic name, Marko Pilich, meaning in English Mark Chicken. The Chicken family name, in both it's forms, Pilich and DePolo are still very common on Korchula and surrounding areas today. Neither Marco, nor his uncles, nor the rest of the inhabitants of their island, were too concerned about how to label themselves ethnically. They were all more or less multilingual and spoke Venetian, Croatian, and probably one or a couple of extra languages. The more educated ones most likely spoke Greek and Latin as well.

There was an awareness of nationality (in the sense of ethnicity, nascio=birth) and people were aware of theirs, but not in the modern sense. A nationality was more like a hair color, something that people were aware of, but didn't make much fuss of. (Until the nazis came along and declared that blond was good, and black was bad.)

There is no way to really know the real ethnicity of Marco Polo. The Italian sounding name explains nothing, due to the translation custom. Just as John Cabot's name, which indicates that he was English, but he was in fact born Giovanni Cabotto. So do we count him as Italian or English?

The discussion is trying to fit historical figures into modern concepts of nationality which isn't really making much sense.

clichebuster said...

7% of GDP. Think about it.

Compared to most governments, that is a very efficient setup.

Bill said...

There is a really good example from Korea in the 16th century of this kind of thing happening.

In the early Chosun dynasty, there was an artistic and cultural renaissance going on as a result of cultural contact with China and through Korean scholars' attending universities in Peking the rest of the world. During this era Hangul, one of the most innovative and useful scripts ever, was invented. Korean military commanders also pioneered some of the most advanced technology of the time, including the famous "turtle boat" in their battles against Japan.

However, in Korean society there was strong dissent due to the rigid social hierarchy, which stipulated lower social status for the illegitimate children of powerful men's numerous concubines among other things. The divisions were so bad that when the Japanese invaded in the late 16th century the slaves and lower levels of society joined with the Japanese army.

This resulted in different factions developing amongst the royal scholars, and eventually led to the purging of "heretical" schools of thought and the imposition of a strict, neo-Confucian order on society that included an inflexible system of ancestor-worship that spelled out social relationships in very exact terms. The use of Hangul was even phased out by the scholar-elite (almost a criminal act if you consider how hard it is for an ordinary person to teach a child all of the Chinese characters needed to be considered literate).

After this was imposed on Korea, innovation practically ceased, and when missionaries first encountered Korea in the 19th century its society was paralyzed by a stolid, dogmatic ideology that kept it far behind the potential of the Korean people.

Sound familiar? Check out Juche thought. North Korea considers itself the heir of the Chosun dynasty.

Nothing anywhere near this severe happened in Italy, but if you look at the social and ideological problems introduced by the Reformation and its there are definitely some parallels.

Anonymous said...

Italy is a Mediteranian country. They were well on the way to becomming a backwater like Turkey while the real action was in the Atlantic.

Bill said...

Italy is a Mediteranian country. They were well on the way to becomming a backwater like Turkey while the real action was in the Atlantic.

-Anon


Gawd what a joke. I suppose my ancestors - all from the North Sea/Northeast Atlantic littoral - must have written almost everything important in Latin for over 1,000 years because they wanted to shore up the Italians' self-esteem?

Trans-Atlantic trade between Europe and America was so unimportant for the 500 years that it is documented to have gone on before Columbus, an Italian, first landed in the New World, that hardly anyone took notice. Even today many scholars, despite solid archeaological evidence, have a hard time believing that anything at all was happening there before a Mediterranean culture got involved.

This just shows that the Mediterranean was where the real action was going on, and assertions to the contrary are pretty silly and uninformed.

marlin said...

The Catholic church was setting up a lot of colledges and schools under authority of the Jesuits, all over Europe to help stop and reverse the reformation during that period of time. Maybe its just a matter of the patronage being spread from one place to many.

MarcZ said...

And where do we think the soul of the Mafia lies? Where did this bad seed come from? Is extreme clan loyalty, crypto-Satanism, ingroup-outgroup parasite strategy the mark of Europe or the mark of the other side of the Mediterranean? Iberia was permanently tattooed by the Muslim invaders and their enablers. Sicily/Italy was poisoned also.

Oh, right. Italy's mafia problem is as much a consequence of the Moorish invasion as Africa's current woes are a result of European colonialism.

David Davenport said...

Finally, what is called "Modern" civilization, the Renaissance and all that follows it, is almost wholly Italian - painting, music, the recovery of Platonic philosophy, etc.

The "recovery" of Platonic sophistry was actually a setback.


The Reformation, calculus, Gothic architecture, moveable type, strong nation-states ...


How many of Shakespeare's plays take place in Italy?

Which Italian wrote Shakespeare's plays?

James Kabala said...

Mark Chicken makes a good point that somewhat refutes Cabrolet's argument. Exactly how could southern Italy drag northern Italy down during this period when they were politically unconnected?

Anonymous said...

Italy declined in relative terms when trade and wealth shifted to the Atlantic. That wealth was used to fuel the Industrial Revolution in Northern Europe which created a bonanza of wealth used, in part, to underwrite scientific investigation. The greatest threat to America's science is the de-industrialization of our economy, not PC persecution of scientists (who are a pretty PC lot themselves!).

Anonymous said...

Steve -- Yours is a ptextbook example of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Many more things were in play in 17th and 18th century Italy than just the Galileo affair. This looks like a warmed over version of Russel's canard that science was ruined in Italy because of the Galileo trial. It is a claim that is wrong on the facts used to support an ideological position regarding religion. It isn't a helpful contribution, but a prejudicial (even bigoted) one. You really should be more careful. -- Delphi McLean

MikeT said...

The simplest explanation for this is that not very long after Galileo, Italy came under foreign domination. Political imperialism has a nasty habit of holding back the potential of a culture. Look at America, for example. America did not start becoming an economic and scientific power to rival Europe's powerful states until it was free of British mercantilism. Mercantilist policies crippled the ability of American producers to make a real profit, which kept significant amounts of capital out of the colonial economy, and in the hands of those living in Britain. However, when America gained its independence, and freedom to trade, it found its ability to invest in everything from infrastructure to science had grown substantially.