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The New Laws of History

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Although the study of history was one of the basic subjects of the studia humanitatis, and 15th-century Italian humanists were prolific historians, they produced little historiographical theory, following Cicero's statement that the practising historian needed no theoretical guidance. Late 15th-century debates led to Giovanni Pontano's dialogue Actius (1499), which, rejecting Cicero's view, provides an essential background to the new developments in ars historica in the 16th century. Historians proper began to pay attention to source citation, and the quest for historical truth, based on a more critical view of source material, becomes a predominant feature in writers such as Bartolomeo Scala and Tristano Calco. Such developments are well illustrated in the evolving historical method of Francesco Guicciardini, and the ranking of sources in order of reliability (public records, private correspondence and writings, eye-witness accounts, and lastly earlier chronicles) is characteristic of later Renaissance treatises on historiography.
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Keywords: Historiography; Humanism; Italy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1987-03-01

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