Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/11

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vii
Preface

of Liberation will again find its place, in so far as it affected the national progress or interests of either country. What in one volume or in one chapter constitutes the main subject, in another may form a digression or furnish an illustration. But, throughout the varied treatments of successive periods, each in its turn dominated by historic ideas or movements of prominent significance, we shall consistently adhere to the conception of modern history, and of the history of modern Europe in particular, as a single entity. This conception has regulated the choice and the distribution of matter and the assignment of space to each division.

Certain nations or countries may at times require relatively full treatment. Italy, for instance, fills an exceptionally large space in the present volume. And the reason is obvious. From Italy proceeded the movement which aroused the mind of Europe to fresh activity; in Italy this movement bore its earliest and, in some branches, its finest fruit. Moreover, in the general play of forces before the Reformation, it was on Italian soil that nearly all the chief powers of Europe met for battle and intrigue. If to these considerations are added the importance of Rome as the capital of the Catholic world and that of Venice as the capital of commercial Europe, it will be seen that there is nothing disproportionate in the share allotted to Italy and Italian affairs in this volume. Other countries within the geographical limits of the European continent had little influence during the period of the Renaissance, and are therefore comparatively neglected. The Scandinavian nations were still in the main confined to their own immediate sphere of action; and it needed the Reformation to bring them into the circle of general European politics. Russia remained, as yet, inert, while the other Eastern races of Europe played but a minor part either in its material or in its intellectual development.

Our first volume is not merely intended to describe and discuss the Renaissance as a movement of European history. It is also designed as an introductory volume whose business it is, as it were, to bring upon the stage the nations, forces, and interests which will bear the chief parts in the action. Each chapter of this volume includes so much of antecedent, especially of institutional history, as seemed necessary for the clear understanding of the conditions with which it is concerned. Such an introduction was not thought requisite, in the case of Great Britain, in a book written for English readers.

That no place has been found in this volume for a separate account of the development of the pictorial, plastic, and decorative art of the Renaissance, may appear to some a serious omission. But to have attempted a review of this subject in the period dealt with in our first volume, would have inevitably entailed a history of artistic progress during later periods—an extension of the scope of this work which considerations of space have compelled us to renounce. Politics,