This article demonstrates how patron-client relationships in mid-eighteenth century England were shaped against the background of the transition to a more negotiated marketplace. By focusing on the twenty-five-year relationship between Thomas Birch and Philip Yorke, we learn how an interesting variant of patronage embroiled with friendship developed between the two. In exchange for his services as intelligencer and agent, Birch enjoyed the benefits of Yorke’s influential network, obtaining new livings as clergyman and advancing his career as historian. Confrontations between the two, particularly on matters involving their work as dedicated historians, did not prevent them from remaining mutually loyal throughout their decades-long affiliation.
Onofrio Panvinio was hired by sixteenth-century Roman families to write their histories and, where necessary, be prepared to bend the facts to suit their interests. This occasionally entailed a bit of forgery, usually involving tampering with specific words in documents. In most respects, however, Panvinio employed the same techniques—archival research and material evidence such as tombs and inscriptions—which distinguished his papal and ecclesiastical histories. This suggests that genealogy, despite being commissioned by aristocratic families to glorify their ancestries, can be seen as a more serious field of historical investigation than is often assumed. Yet the contours of this genre of history for hire in sixteenth-century Italian historiography are nowhere near exact. Panvinio struck a balance between fulfilling the expectations of the noble families who commissioned him and following his own scholarly instincts as an historian, but he nevertheless did not seek their publication. By contrast, Alfonso Ceccarelli, who also composed family histories, veered considerably in the direction of flattering his patrons, even forging entire papal and imperial privileges. Indeed, he was condemned to death for the forgery of wills concerning the property rights of nobles.
Historians of scholarship and intellectual historians have recently been paying more attention to the social and epistemic conditioning of scholarly production. Informed by the history of science, such scholarship has shed light upon how knowledge production changed over time, and how its ‘legislation’, ‘administration’, and ‘institutionalisation’ varied in different contexts. This article explores the reform of intellectual culture in the early eighteenth-century Italian republic of letters, as a case-study in the application of such emergent methodologies. From around 1700, a nexus of ethical, aesthetical and epistemological ideals began to crystallize on the Italian peninsula, codified under the concept of ‘buon gusto’ or ‘good taste’. ‘Buon gusto’ became a point of reference for individual scholars, scholarly communities and literary journals seeking to reform scholarly practice. This led to the normalization of historical criticism as the dominant scholarly mode among Italian scholars by the mid-eighteenth century.