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The Italian Institute for Historical Studies


In an age of modern public universities and libraries it is easy to forget how important smaller private institutes and academies have been in European history. Early modern science often took place under the auspices of such organizations, among others, as the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome. They are still important in Naples. Besides simply owning a lot of books, these organizations offer courses of study, seminars and discussion groups; they amount practically to mini-universities. Covered elsewhere is an entry, for example, on the Institute for Philosophical Studies. Better known, perhaps, is the organization founded by Italy’s most prominent historian of the twentieth century, Benedetto Croce, the Istituto italiano per gli studi Storici.

The Italian Institute for Historical Studies was founded in 1946 by Croce on the premises of his own home in the Palazzo Filomarino (entrance, photo, left) in the heart of the old city, just across from the church and monastic complex of Santa Chiara (number 5 on this map). The Institute now takes up three floors of the building and describes its goal as “…to foster a greater awareness of history in relation to the study of the philosophy of logic, ethics, law, economy and politics, religion and those arts which define and demonstrate human values…”

    Benedetto Croce                          
The library at present contains 130,000 volumes, 400 current periodicals and a growth of 2000 volumes per year. The original library was obviously Croce’s but has been greatly augmented by the addition of other private collections donated or purchased over the decades. The emphasis in the acquisition of books has been on not simply duplicating material that is easily found elsewhere. The Institute holds seminars and conferences, and it awards scholarships to young graduates both from Italy and abroad. By now, entire generations of young scholars have studied there. A short, random sampling from a very long list of upcoming lectures and discussions:

  • La musicalità popolare dalle villanelle del Cinquecento alle poesie-canzoni di Salvatore Di Giacomo [Popular ‘musicality’ from the villanelle of the 1500s to the poems and songs of Salvatore di Giacomo];
  • La nascita della modernità nelle arti [The Birth of Modernism in the Arts];
  • Aspetti caratteristici del papato medievale [Characteristic Aspects of the Medieval Papacy];
  • Società e politica nell’Italia ostrogota [Society and Politics in Ostrogoth Italy];
  • Le interpretazioni italiane di Hegel [Italian Interpretations of Hegel];
  • La Riforma protestante e la giustizia penale [The Protestant Reformation and the Criminal Law System].

[Also see Italian and Neapolitan Academies of the Middle Ages.]

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