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[image ALT: A photograph of an old man with a beard in a 19c suit. It is the Italian historian and politician Pasquale Villari.]

An article from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, now in the public domain.
Any color photos are mine, © William P. Thayer.

Pasquale Villari

Villari, Pasquale (1827- ), Italian historian and statesman, was born at Naples on the 3rd of October 1827.​a He studied together with Luigi la Vista under Francesco de Sanctis. He was implicated in the riots of the 15th of May 1848 at Naples, against the Bourbon government, and had to take refuge in Florence. There he devoted himself to teaching and historical research in the public libraries, and in 1859 he published the first volume of his Storia di Girolamo Savonarola e de' suoi tempi, in consequence of which he was appointed professor of history at Pisa. A second volume appeared in 1861, and the work, which soon came to be recognized as an Italian classic, was translated into various foreign languages. It was followed by a work of even greater critical value, Niccolò Machiavelli e i suoi tempi (1877‑82). In the meanwhile Villari had left Pisa and was transferred to the chair of philosophy of history at the Institute of Studii Superiori in Florence, and he was also appointed a member of the council of education (1862). He served as a juror at the international exhibition of that year in London, and contributed an important monograph on education in England and Scotland. In 1869 he was appointed under-secretary of state for education, and shortly afterwards was elected member of parliament, a position which he held for several years. In 1884 he was nominated senator, and in 1891‑92 he was minister of education in the Marchese di Rudinì's first cabinet. In 1893‑94 he collected a number of essays on Florentine history, originally published in the Nuova Antologia, under the title of I primi due secoli della Storia di Firenze, and in 1901 he produced Le invasioni barbariche in Italia, a popular account in one volume of the events following the dissolution of the Roman empire. All these works have been translated into English by the historian's wife, Linda White Villari. Another side of Villari's activity was his interest in the political and social problems of the day; and although never identified with any political party, his speeches and writings have always commanded considerable public attention.

Among his other literary works may be mentioned: Saggi Critici (1968); Arte, Storia, e Filosofia (Florence, 1884); Scritti varii (Bologna, 1894); another volume of Saggi Critici (Bologna, 1896); and a volume of Discussioni critiche e discorsi (Bologna, 1905), containing his speeches as president of the Dante Alighieri Society. His most important political and social essays are collected in his Lettere Meridionali ed altri scritti sulla questione sociale in Italia (Turin, 1885), and Scritti sulla questione sociale in Italia (Florence, 1902). The Lettere Meridionali (originally published in the newspaper L'Opinione in 1875) produced a deep impression, as they were the first exposure of the real conditions of southern Italy. A selection of Villari's essays, translated by his wife, has been published in England (1907).

See also Francesco Baldasseroni, Pasquale Villari (Florence, 1907).

Thayer's Note:

a Villari died in Florence on December 7, 1917.

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Page updated: 25 Apr 17