The aim of the present project is to create a European Network for Baroque Cultural Heritage that should grow over the long term and, after a period of experimentation, achieve permanent status and financial independence.
Its main tasks will be a) the elaboration of a multiple-approach pattern for promoting the knowledge of the European baroque cultural heritage and b) the elaboration of innovative strategies for disseminating historical consciousness not only among scholars and academics, but among school teachers, primary and secondary schools students, life-long education structures, policy makers, civil servants and a wider public in general. The ENBaCH is designed since the proponents are persuaded that, more than the Renaissance, the 17th century, after the terrible experience of the wars of religion, is the age during which – thanks to a huge increasing mobility – a common awareness of the European plural identities is construed and developed, together with a raising consciousness of a common background.
At the core of the project there is a network of European historians of different disciplinary specializations. One of its first purposes will thus be to elaborate an innovative interdisciplinary approach to the study of past events, that will cut across traditional disciplinary partitions, such as those dividing social history from art history or literary history and so on. The proponents are in fact centres, groups and individual scholars actually working within the boundaries of different disciplinary and methodological fields that can be synthesized as follows:
- Natural philosophy
- Theology and religious practices
- Political theory and political institutions
- Economic and social interactions
These researchers are nonetheless unified by the fact of working on a same historical period, usually defined as “baroque age”, approximately coinciding with a “long 17th century”. Each of the just mentioned disciplinary fields is indeed characterised by its own “epistemological canon”, fashioned through a continuous process of sedimentation that organizes the fundamental questionings, the hierarchies of the scientific issues and the methodological approaches. The point is thus to use these plural disciplinary approaches to better understand the ways in which European cultures and identities were formed in a crucial period for the history of Europe. However the objective of the ENBaCH is not to construct an artificial unity among these different issues and approaches and their results, intending to reach a unified and coherent image of the Baroque, similar to what has long been the image of Renaissance. The aim is not to utilize the empirical data collected though decades of research to construct a typical-ideal pattern of baroque society and culture, and to scrutinize its genesis in a specific context, as well as its dissemination in different geographical and political areas of Europe along with their multiple variants. Rather, the objective of the ENBaCH is to let the above mentioned different disciplinary approaches and scientific results interact, in the double aim of:
1. stressing the correlations among the different scientific fields in order to recompose a reality arbitrarily split by the dissimilar disciplinary canons;
2. exploiting the coherences and the contradictions emerging from the different classes of phenomena to reach a deeper knowledge of the society and culture under scrutiny.
A great deal of work has already been done, for example on the correlations between art and literature, rhetoric and political discourse, law, morals and economic practices, literature and the material history of the book, aristocratic ethics and the organization of sciences and so on. The objective of the ENBaCH is to widen this interdisciplinary cooperation and adopt an approach that rejects arbitrary compartments of necessarily interconnected social and cultural phenomena.
Moreover the ENBaCH intends to analyse the circulation at European level of ideas, aesthetics, institutions, cultural artefacts, social practices, etc. and to investigate the different media of this circulation, from human beings to things. To reach these ambitious goals the proponents intend to elaborate an original and innovative research method, capable to cope with the complexity of the approach and the multiplicity of the interconnections among the phenomena under scrutiny, as well as with the simultaneous use of heterogeneous series of data. The idea is not only to improve the analysis of any coherent series of data with the suggestions coming from a contiguous research field but, more ambitiously, to generate – through the systematic dialogue/confrontation between phenomena traditionally dealt with within different frameworks – new interpretive instruments.
The objective is to reach the possibility of reconstructing baroque society and culture without relying on the usual grand narratives, but letting room for contradictions and integrating them into the analysis, so that cultural heritage may really succeed in showing how peoples and societies with different political, religious, and cultural histories were the outcomes of contacts, exchanges and mutual influences, as well as of rivalries, challenges and fighting.
The objectives of the project will be achieved in three stages:
I. The first one will be devoted to research and data collection. The proponents are indeed persuaded that knowledge is a cumulative process and no innovative achievement can be reached without a preliminary recognition of what has been previously done and a thorough research for new data and empirical evidences. It will start with a kick-off workshop to be held in Rome at the very beginning of the project, to publicize the plan in its whole and the different envisaged activities and, at the same time, to coordinate the methodologies and initiatives of the different partners. As a first step in the general dissemination plan, it will be open to scholars, researchers and students, but also to schoolteachers, policy-makers and economic operators
II. The second stage will be devoted to dissemination since the aim of the project is to enhance historical consciousness in the wider public and to achieve a better understanding, fruition and protection of the European cultural heritage through the widest diffusion of knowledge. These goals should be reached through a multiple-approach methodology and a multi-media series of measures: a historical atlas and a dictionary of baroque culture are envisaged, together with a series of exhibitions, of tourist circuits and of documentary movies and radio emissions, as well as an interactive website for the younger audience.
III. The third stage of the project will finally be devoted to the institutionalization of the project, through the creation of a European Institute for Baroque Cultural Heritage. The Institute is intended to become a permanent organization and achieve financial independence through public and private contributions and also through part of its own initiatives. It will thus constitute a European landmark for all the initiatives concerning the baroque age and an agency for coordinating and developing actions of research, dissemination and protection of the cultural heritage.