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You're right that monasticism was one vector by which ancient knowledge was communicated to Europe in the High Middle Ages, as were the universities. Medieval Europe had lots of places where knowledge was kept and produced, but because of the organization of the society - intensely local and hierarchical - that didn't spread. What I see the ETopia concept as trying is the protection of knowledge in a fixed space without the parochialism or hierarchy that characterized Medieval institutions.
I think you make an excellent point about the recurrence of this phenomenon - taking steps to protect knowledge and intellectual activity from a crisis of civilization. Better than a repeat of the sack of the Alexandria Library.
And of course, Christian monasticism was a response to the collapse of Roman civilization and its trade networks - Benedict of Nursia as an example.
Interesting point about modern universities. I wonder if the nuclear reactor is still there on the UC Berkeley campus, down in the basement of Etcheverry Hall, or if it has been disassembled...
And the world will live as one
Of course, if you talk to a medieval historian, they'll insist there was NO Renaissance at all, that the entire concept is flawed. But then I'm a 20th century historian, so I'm more willing to speak in those terms.
Sometimes I wonder whether a critique that begins by rightfully pointing out a flaw in a concept doesn't have a natural tendency to over-reach and over-simplify as it is propagated, ending up finding more flaw than exists.
So, certainly neither the French nor Scottish Enlightenments lived up to what participants hoped that they were doing, nor did it entirely go where they hoped that it was going, but there were the participants and what they were actually doing, and we may as well call it "the Enlightenment".
So too, perhaps the Renaissance was not the clear break with the past that its enthusiasts may have imagined, either at the time or in later historiography, and it might not have been a distinct "stage" in historical development ... and certainly not even the first wave of translations of preserved texts from the Eastern to the Western Med (e.g., preceded by the Caliphate of Córdoba) ... but the pretension to a Rebirth still lends that period a distinctive character.
I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
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