Renaissance book ideas – Despotism

From reading the new book I got “The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy” by Jacob Burckhardt I have been thinking over the idea which the author discusses in the first chapter – Despotism – and how this could be reflected into the context of the 21st century.

Found this definition of Despotism on wikipedia – Despotism is a form of government in which a single entity rules with absolute power. That entity may be an individual, as in anautocracy, or it may be a group,[1] as in an oligarchy. The word despotism means to “rule in the fashion of a despot” and does not necessarily require a singular “despot”, an individual.

During the 14th and 15th centuries there were many of these despot states within the Renaissance world, where leaders and families would fight for control of their territories, often with conflict and betrayals ending one rule, beginning a fresh one and repeating often. The inevitable violence that ensued from the way these states were run produced revolt and Tyrannicide, where groups of people would plot to overthrow the existing tyrant in power. Giovanni Boccaccio, and Italian author and poet famously stated:

Shall I call the tyrant king or prince, and obey him loyally as my lord? No, for he is the enemy of the commonwealth. Against him I may use arms, conspiracies, spies, ambushes and fraud; to do so is a sacred and necessary work. There is no more acceptable sacrifice than the blood of a tyrant.

In the context of the 21st century, similar events around the globe, mainly in the middle east could be compared to the events of these despot states in the Renaissance era. The Arab Spring beginning in 2010 witnessed the people of countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Bahrain rise up against the ruling government of these states who often displayed characteristics of dictatorships. The violent overthrowing of the current regime to form a new one draws parallels with the events of the Renaissance states, the wars in Iraq and the situation developing in Iran are also good examples of “regime change”.

The role of technology on the ground is also an aspect to think about in relation to this subject, would these revolutions have taken shape the way they have done without the coverage of global television reporting or without the use of Twitter and Facebook, the Egyptian government restricted access to the Internet during the trouble there in an effort to stop the protestors communicating.

I have not completed the full chapter of the book where Burckhardt discuses these characteristics in relation to the Renaissance yet, but the books has definatly got me thinking about how our countries are run, how we interact with other nations and how technology is used as a tool for the people of the countries to communicate as opposed to the governments speaking for them.

Reflection (3)

I have been more and more interested in the idea of Globalisation as I continue to read this book and find that many things can relate back to Global Renaissance aspects I have been talking about. Previously I have been interested in how the world is developing with the addition of technologies as an aid, the development of the individual and global society alongside technology makes up the core of my digital renaissance theory.

In experiments I have used software such as photoshop and appropriated images from the Internet to highlight social and cultural issues by distorting and manipulating them and I would quite like to continue this. With the addition of globalisation research I would like to develop my project and start thinking about maps, the idea of states and countries is something I want to explore and I have briefly touched on this when dealing with the Israeli-Palestine conflict.  I’m not sure how to develop this exactly at this point  but I’ll think of something.

Globalisation (3)

The idea of Globalisation has got me thinking about working with maps and countries in some form. It would be quite good to study the effects of the sovereigns states and the relationship between these on a world level.


I like the idea of these internet maps as well

Globalisation (2)

From the initial reading of the Globalisation book I feel that this is something that I should have researched earlier. The book details several time periods and different types of Globalisation wiping the theory that it is a contemporary phenomenon, discussing the rise of writing and language, to the wheel and other inventions up to the industrial and digital eras as well as migration as the mutiple causes of globalisation.

The role of technology is something the author states as being an important factor in how the world is getting ‘smaller’ and also contributes this to different cultures integrating on a global level. I’ve still to read the rest of the book but I feel these theories are going to become integral to my project.


A friend gave me the very short introduction to Globalisation by Manfred B. Steger. Only really read the introductory chapter but I think it could come in handy for some more research into the global renaissance stuff. The book covers the economic aspects to Globalisation which seems to be the most prominent issues in the mainstream media, it also covers political and cultural aspects which is what I am more interested in studying for my project.

One quote that has caught my eye already is by Roland Robertson, Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh

Globalisation as a concept refers both to the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole.

I think there is a connection between this statement and some of the things I have been mentioning to do with the Internet, the Internet in itself could be viewed as a tool of globalisation covering the world and raising the level of consciousness of different peoples into their place in the global society.