This site is for those interested in all forms of dissent in early modern Europe. I hope those interested in political, religious, cultural or other forms of dissent during the period will feel free to post their thoughts, ideas, questions, samples of work in progress, bibliographic suggestions, and anything else they feel would be appropriate for the site. To start it off, I will post here a short excerpt from work in progress on Italian Renaissance origins of Freemasonry (more on this subject can be found at my page at Academia.edu, using the rubric “James Ward Berkeley” in the search box). I hope others will feel free also to post here their work-in-progress for feedback, comments, and suggestions.
On dissident networks in Renaissance Italy: Our study of non-conforming companies such as the Compagnia della Cazzuola and those others mentioned by Plaisance, Simons and Kornell suggests that many of the academies generally considered by scholars to be primarily purely intellectual or cultural in nature may have in fact also had a hidden political agenda, if not explicitly, then at least in their firm commitment to maintaining the traditions of free discourse and debate which had characterized, at least ideally, the academies of the fifteenth-century, not to mention their classical antecedents, and that they viewed this mission as perhaps even more important than the discovery of new knowledge for its own sake as their fundamental reason for being.
This would, of course, have been highly displeasing to those authorities of church and state determined to control, if not eliminate entirely, the free exchange of ideas which, in their view, presented a threat to their hegemony and their consolidation of power over the Italian peninsula, that is, the Spanish and their Imperial allies.
In a study we are currently preparing, we argue that many of these non-conforming academies were in fact part of a loose network of religious and political dissenters, spread throughout Europe, many of whom were actually Masonic organizations in the full modern sense of the term, years before most scholars consider such organizations to have arisen.