The Italian Historiographical Method in Elizabethan England: Jacopo Aconcio Translated by Thomas Blundeville

Omar Khalaf


Jacopo Aconcio (ca.1500-ca.1567) was an Italian philosopher who acquired some fame in Europe for his views on religious toleration. After embracing the Reformed faith, he sought refuge in England. He soon started working in the service of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who also acted as patron to Thomas Blundeville (ca.1522-ca.1606), a prolific translator of Italian moral and philosophical works. The close intellectual relationship between Aconcio and Blundeville stimulated Blundeville’s translation of some of the philosopher’s works, including the historiographical treatise Delle osservationi et avvertimenti che haver si debbono nel leggere delle historie. Despite scanty scholarly attention, this text is notable as being one of the few treatises on the subject of historiography in early modern England and the first to offer advice on how to read and interpret history. In this paper I argue that the typical sixteenth-century principle of freedom in the re-elaboration of the source was widely employed by Blundeville in order to provide Leicester with a text purged of Aconcio’s rhetorics and where his principles of ‘method’, ‘purpose’, and ‘public utility’ might find their full application.

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