Dr. Natalia Nowakowska is a Tutor & Lecturer in Early Modern History at Somerville College, University of Oxford.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Egypt and Florence

Being a historian of 15th and 16th century Europe doesn’t really grant me special insight into current events in Egypt. But nonetheless, I’ve been struck by certain resonances over the past couple of days, as I’ve been marking collection papers (i.e. mock Finals exams) sat by Finalists studying the Florence & Venice Renaissance Special Subject. In this test, students have to write high-speed commentaries on 12 extracts or quotes from a selection of 16C sources. While marking, I've been wandering over to my computer at regular intervals to check the latest developments in North Africa on BBC news. So here are some quotes from Renaissance Florence and present-day Egypt.

‘And you know that our house [the Medici] never rose to any rank of greatness [in Florence] to which it was not thrust by this palace and your united consent’.

(Renaissance Special Subject paper, 2010, Question 1a:
Speech to the people by Lorenzo de’ Medici, ruler of Florence, after the Pazzi revolt of 1478, from Niccolo Machiavelli’s Florentine Histories)

‘I have never, ever been seeking power, and the people know the difficult circumstances [in which?] I shouldered responsibility.”

President Hosni Mubarak, speech to the nation, 1st Feb 2011

‘[The tyrant] lives beset with fantasies of grandeur and with melancholy and fears that always gnaw at his heart.”  

(Renaissance Special Subject paper, 2010, Question 1b:
The verdict of Savonarola, reforming friar and self-proclaimed prophet, on Lorenzo de’ Medici, 1498)

‘The tyrant has shamed himself and his name forever.’

                        Tweet from Cairo, 2.2.11 (http://twitter.com/habdelgawad)

“History will judge me and others for our merits and faults.”      
Hosni Mubarak, 1st Feb 2010

To which one might add:

“There is nothing new under the sun.”
Saint Augustine, City of God, (set text, Oxford Prelims Historiography paper).

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