Project (2020)

A Scholarly Way of Life in the Making, 1470–1630

How do ways of life emerge, and how are they transformed? Ways of life are essential to any historical description of a given society, yet we have hardly any historical account of their making. Anthropologists often refer to them as given, as one of the basic building blocks of cultures, while historians have tended to treat them as the products of long-term and largely invisible processes. Fifteenth- and sixteenth-century northwestern Europe offers an uncommon opportunity for exploring these questions. Within the time span covered by my project, the way of life of one of the best documented social groupings in European history underwent a deep and visible transformation, as scholars renounced celibacy and forms of communal academic life, embraced marriage, and began to found family households. In the new circumstances, scholars—as married members of urban communities—had to renegotiate their received image so as to make their way of life, social involvement, and intimate dependencies compatible with the autonomy and authority that they still claimed for their special calling. Sixteenth-century humanists thus intensively discussed and experimented with the shape of scholarly ways of life. The project explores the conflicts, uncertainties, and debates involved in this transformation.