Reason, morality and political pragmatism. The making of Virgilio Malvezzi’s Sucesos principales de la monarchia de España (1640)

July 14, 2017 | Autor: Lisa Kattenberg | Categoría: Habsburg Studies, Politics of Writing History, Spanish Monarchy, Reason of State, Virgilio Malvezzi
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Reason, morality and political pragmatism. The making of Virgilio Malvezzi's Sucesos principales de la monarchia de España (1640)

In the perpetually conflict-ridden, multi-national Spanish monarchy, political thinkers no longer treated politics as a primarily moral or religious affair. Rather, they were pragmatically concerned with the preservation of the king's state, in the sense of maintaining his power and position on which the order and integrity of his realms depended. How to weigh the interest of the state and the monarchy's moral, historical and religious obligations was a dilemma individuals were facing in their thinking and also, as political agents or royal servants, in the very reality of their decision-making. Since historical experience was commonly considered the main teacher of political prudence, a ruler's key skill in preserving his state, reason of state was closely connected to history. Thoughts and practices concerning history, moral and pragmatic laws of state and the needs of the moment thus constantly challenged and complemented one another.
Individuals who not only reflected on politics and history, but also acted as agents within the government structures of the Habsburg Empire provide a way to explore the interaction between ideas and their real political contexts. This paper focuses on Sucesos principales de la monarquia de España en el año de mil i seiscientos i treinta i nueve, a history of the Spanish monarchy during the year 1639 by the Bolognese courtier and political thinker Virgilio Malvezzi (1595-1653). Sucesos principales is commonly characterized as a work of propaganda devised to support the regime of king Philip IV and his powerful favourite the Count-Duke of Olivares, as both its subject matter and Malvezzi's intimacy with Olivares seem to suggest. I will argue that the genre of propagandistic or 'politic' history is not the principal context in which to understand the book. Instead, Sucesos principales neatly fits the genre of neo-stoic moralistic political prose popular with an international audience during the seventeenth century. This follows from closer examination of Malvezzi's life and work at the Spanish court, the publishing history of Sucesos principales and the emergence of the published text from a hitherto unknown manuscript.

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