This paper would naturally tackle on how historians changed in discussing topics on social history through the years. Basing from the Italian Renaissance period up to the present the historigraphical trends obviously changed. Depending on how the society changes its view, the historians had also developed their style on how they discuss the areas of history concerning men and women, the family, marriage and the church.
Society as a whole changes through the years. As every new year paves way to a new beginning, every year the society advances to new idealisms and sometimes even norms are changed. The mostly affected part though is that of human relations. As people change, the things they believe and the things they accept to be right seems to rapidly become different comparing from the later year to the present times.
For this reason, trends in history also tends to either follow how the society acts or formulate new ways on how to out social advancements into writing. Commonly, history indicates how fast a certain issue develops on it sown as time passes. And as this is true with how historians scribble the facts on books and reports, it is very obvious how sometimes even the normal look they have at history gradually changes.
This paper shall separate the different issues of social history and further examine how historians’ views were changed over the centuries.
On Marriage and Family
The 1997 Encyclopedia Americana, under the topic “History of Marriage” notes: “ Some scholars are inclined to trace the origin of marriage to pairing arrangements of animals below man. Studies reveal that a more or less permanent association…characterizes the anthropoid apes, with the association of the chimpanzee being monogamous and durable.” (awake 1987)
Thus marriage is commonly believed to have originated among subhuman creatures. However, there is no real evidence to support this view. The Encyclopedia Americana even acknowledges that “these less permanent associations between other than human, animal relationships are not marriages since they have no society to sanction them.
The noted part from the Encyclopedia Americana goes on to say: “ While the original form of marriage is lost in oblivion of the prehistorical period, it is safe to say that during historical times some form of marriage has been present in all societies…the main forms of marriage are polygamy [a man having more than one wife], polyandry [a woman having more than one husband] and monogamy [man and woman having only one wife or husband]”.
Yes, as what the Encyclopedia Americana observes, that the prevalent forms of marriage today is the monogamous type of finding a lifetime mate.
Indeed, a family is an organization made to bring out the best in one person and thus be able to enhance one’s social abilities. Aside from the fact that it actually measures a person’s capacity to handle responsibility.
On the other hand, the Italian history suggests of a different role of a family in a certain society especially that of the woman’s part. According to Patricia Allerston’s ‘Wedding Finery in Sixteenth Century Venice’, marriage is actually an important part of social prestige. She says: “ Research on marriage images and ceremonies have shown how images tended to reaffirm on the symbolic level, the strength of established values and power relations within a family.”
It is very obvious how historians of those times tried to scribble on history the facts about the Situation of the Italian families before. It is based on the elite status each person is joined with. Normally, as stated in Allerston’s writings, marriage has become a scale for verifying one’s status. In this case, most families are striving to remain together having a tight bond between each other. This is not only because of the bond called “love for family” but because of the social image they are protecting as individuals and as a family. As quoted from the Encyclopedia Americana, It is also true that years before, Italians were stuck to having only one mate since it is what’s considered acceptable in the society. Yet it cannot still be said that each couple is totally loyal or even honest with each other.
On the other hand, historians in our present time see the big difference of the family’s state several years ago in comparison to our present era. It has been reported recently that according to a survey, more unmarried people are living together in Italy and more married couples are getting divorced, this has been the topic of an article from the La Republica newspaper in Italy. Every year some 18,000 marriages are solemnized in which at least one of the spouses is remarrying. These new marital unions often create enlarged family units that include children from a previous marriage. This trend, together with the increase in single-parent families is rapidly and drastically changing the structure of the traditional Italian family.
Yes, it is indeed true that families and Italy had embraced the changes of the social norms regarding marriage. If in the past few years, having been able to have a marriage mate and being able to tell the majority that someone has been married or having big, elegant and grand marriage ceremonies is a very important social occasion and thus this occasions are only celebrated by the elite groups of the society, this present times marriage could be done by anybody anytime. Sometimes it is not even considered if both the mates agreed to just stay together or live-in together in one roof without the blessing the church or permission of civil ceremonies. And as it has been very important for the people to let the others now of their marriage, this time, some people are even more favorable of silent marriages.
As a fact, today the “living tally” which is a phrase for a permanent and respectable relationship outside a formal marriage. This though could be avoided if a woman wishes to retain her personal privacy and freedom with regards to some financial and personal or social issues at that. Having known this, the act of marriage has been caught up in a wider social movement from status to contract. Status is usually fixed and unchangeable but a contract could be considered null and void or dissoluble. This fact shows how easy it is to end a marriage contract and be divorced from a mate during this present times.
The Italian Men and Women
Still in connection with marriages, according to Chritiane Klapich-Zuber’s ‘Women, family and ritual and Renaissance Italy’, marriage was a simple negotiation between families which usually involves political strategies.
“Marriage was more for the family than for the people getting married. Women were given to dowry, which they could use to marry or to go to convent”(Zuber 253-267). Naturally, as historians has, placed it, women were given importance in terms of wealth. A dowry as it is, is an amount of money or even a property given to a woman’s family either for marriage as taking the woman as a mate or for the bills for the marital ceremonies. Due to this fact, women of the old Italy are even sometimes forced to get into marriage through agreements between their family to that of their husband’s family.
On the other hand, some women choose to live in the convents and serve the church. Daniela Lombardi’s “Fidanzementi e matrimoni”, men and women have different views of ecclesiastical power. “For men religious life meant abstention from marital bonds, or celibacy. For women it implied a marital status, that of the bride of the Christ”, agrees Gabriella Zarri (198-208). The bridal metaphor here represented the unifying status of a woman.
History thus suggests, that before, it is very important that a woman is either unified with a man or Christ. They are considered weak and incapable of taking care of themselves thus showing that they are the lesser part or member of the community. According to Patricia Allerston in an interview, “Back then it is very hard to find any respectable options for women. There were no specific marriage or religious seclusion”. Although women who had lower status had more freedom, they lived a very difficult, precarious existence. In addition to this, it has also been written in history that women who became nuns had been hidden in an isolated place and had been transformed to women having socially invisible presence. No one was to see the nuns and they were not to see anyone outside the convent. Yes, the Italian history pictured a society who favored aristocrats and found a lesser opportunity for those who had lower economic status especially the women. Most of the activities of Italian women in history were thus limited.
On the contrary, at present, more Italian women are rather independent. Women who could stand on their own and even raise their own families specially those who stand as single parents. They are also allowed to have some higher positions with regards to their works and their society. Some of them even share in the minor areas of politics.
Recent researches on marriage, family and gender suggests that Italian women today are not anymore forced into any marriage bonds.
Obviously, although not completely free from being victims of social status and social views of norms for women, the new age paved way for the development of the Italian women’s more liberal state compared to that of the normal situation for women in the society as suggested by history.
The Church And The Society
Indeed, for the past decades of Italian history, the church had so much influence on how the society holds its activities or even decide on the social norms they are to implement as acceptable ones. In short, whatever the church’s statement is considered reliable by the society.
Now, a report from the New York Times shows how different the church and its people are treated in Italy in the modern era. “After 16 years of negotiations, the Italian parliament signed a new concordat with the Vatican, replacing the one concluded between fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and Pope Pius XI in 1929. The new concordat ends the Vatican’s favored status as a “sacred city”- although it remains an independent state under papal authority- as well as Roman Catholicism’s reign as the state religion. Additionally, church marriage annulments are now subject to state confirmation, compulsory religious education in the schools is eliminated and clergymen arrested for crimes do not have a right to “special treatment”- all of which were provisions of the old concordat. The new Concordat is another example of the diminishing hold of the Roman Catholic church in civil life in Italy”(Awake 21).
It is thus just right to say that the historiography of the Italian history had been written accordingly to the trends of how the Italian society behaved. Especially with the issue of the Italian women. Everything changes, as well as how the history records itself.
“Italian Families Changing”. July 22,1997. Awake! Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Brooklyn New York. 21.
“New Vatican Concordat”. June 8,1992. Awake! Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Brooklyn New York. 21,
Allerston, Patricia. (1999). Wedding finery in sixteenth century Venice. 25-40.
Klapich-Zuber, Christiane. (1985). Women, family and ritual in Renaissance Italy. Chicago. 253-267.
Lombardi, Daniela. (1996). Fidanzamenti e matrimoni. 905-910.
Medioli Francesca.(1964 ). La clasaurra del Monarche. 249-261.
Zarri,Gabriella. (1980).Gender,religious institutions. Turin. 198-208.