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As a tribute to Marvin Becker, James Banker and Carol Lansing have collected a number of his papers on Florentine and Renaissance history. While many of these essays were first published two to four decades ago, it is only recently that scholarship is catching up with Becker's historical thinking. These essays showcase his brilliant insights for a new generation of scholars to come.
Becker began his work in 1953 when he arrived in Florence as a Fulbright scholar, only eight years after World War II, while Italy was still struggling in the turbulent wake of the end of the war. Under those volatile circumstances, Becker commenced his study of the tumultuous past of Florentine society, producing a vast array of scholarly works.
In the capital of humanism, he initiated what was to be a lifelong examination of the Western civil tradition. In Florence he could study the interplay of ideas and action in what he was to call "the public world." The rise of this world out of the private, feudal, and corporate structures of the medieval commune, its functioning, and its eventual subversion by the authoritarian structures of the early modern state provided, he thought, valuable information for modern political cultures. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Becker addressed a wide variety of themes and issues raised by scholars such as Davidson, Salvemini, Ottokar, Panella, Rodolico, Barbadoro, Baron, and others. He also introduced his own formulations on a range of subjects including the political role of Florence's minor guilds, usury, taxation, public debt, popular heresy, church-state relations, the city's chroniclers, the influence of "new men" on Florentine government, and changing mentalities.
These papers, in their originality, their richness of documentation, and their suggestiveness, are still relevant for current scholarship. They have been selected for the convenience of readers who may know Becker only through his books, or from the myriad footnotes by other scholars who have drawn so much from his work. This volume will be of interest to scholars, students, and others interested in Renaissance history, whether it be social or political.