Humanists and genealogists on nobility and the human body
in Renaissance humanism and ethnicity before race
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Chapter four begins the second part of the book, which asks how seventeenth century humanists understood the acquisition of those natural characteristics which marked both human societies and certain groups within those societies. It starts with a debate on the nature of true nobility. For Richard O’Ferrall, fine ancestry was the primary component of nobility (and Irishmen of English descent were incapable of it), whereas for John Lynch true nobility lay in virtue. In the course of this debate, O’Ferrall and Lynch also alluded to or avoided the problem of human heredity. The second part of this chapter explores the writings on nobility of a figure who, at first glance, proceeded from premises very different to those of his humanist contemporaries: the Gaelic Irish genealogist Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh. However, it seems that the genealogist shared a certain understanding of the relationship between the physical appearance of individuals and groups and their inherent moral qualities with the papal nuncio Gianbattista Rinuccini, a man who had received the most rigorous education in Aristotelian humanism.

Renaissance humanism and ethnicity before race

The Irish and the English in the seventeenth century

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