The Great Unmasker: Paolo Sarpi, 1552-1623

Described by Bossuet as “a Protestant in friar's clothing,” Sarpi was an historian who saw that religion might be a cloak for political designs and, as Peter Burke describes, organised his historical writings around this point.

Who is Paolo Sarpi? Today, many educated Englishmen would be hard put to it to answer this question. It was different in the nineteenth century, when Macaulay called him “my favourite modern historian,” Acton violently attacked him, and three biographies of him in English were published; in the eighteenth century, when Bolingbroke, Gibbon, Hallam and Robertson all praised him, and Dr. Johnson thought of translating him; and in the seventeenth century, when three of his books and some of his letters were translated, when his admirers included Burnet, his friends Wotton, and among his acquaintances and correspondents were probably Bacon, Gilbert, and possibly Donne.

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