The Historiography of the Jesuits in the Italian Peninsula and Islands before the Suppression

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Jesuit Historiography Online




In 1993, historian Miguel Batllori posited that the history of the Jesuits in the Italian peninsula required a different approach from that in other political entities, given the location of the Society’s administration in Rome, and the dominance of Spaniards in the leadership there.1 In the following year, Jesuit and historian John W. O’Malley argued that the historiographical tradition until that point had been either apologetic or antagonistic.2 Both were reviewing Jesuit historian Mario Scaduto’s L’opera di Francesco Borgia, the fifth volume in a series about the early decades of the Society of Jesus in Italy. That work, along with O’Malley’s First Jesuits, helped reimagine the study of the Society, merging institutional and biographical history, paying attention to personal details, and relying on a broad source base. Nonetheless, issues identified by Batllori and O’Malley remain significant in studying the first centuries of the Italian Society: how do historians understand a Spanish-dominated, Roman-located, globally-focused organization as it developed in a disorganized political and religious context? How do both Jesuits and non-Jesuits write about the pre-suppression era without either celebrating or condemning? What were the most significant struggles and successes of the pre-suppression Society, and what role did Rome or other Italian locations play in these? I will address these issues by discussing sources and authors of Jesuit history throughout the Italian peninsula and islands, both regionally and comparatively; by noting the attention paid by historians to particular subjects; and by pointing to some areas of scholarship which are lacking.