Skip to content

Francisco Saverio Clavigero

Free World Class Education
FREE Catholic Classes

Born at Vera Cruz, Mexico, 9 September, 1731; d. at Bologna, Italy, 2 April, 1787. At the age of seventeen he entered the Society of Jesus . Father José Rafael Campoi, S.J., at the College of St. Peter and St. Paul in Mexico, directed his attention to the valuable collection of documents on Mexican history and antiquities deposited there by Sigüenza y Gongora, and he became an enthusiastic investigator in these fields. When the Jesuits were expelled from Mexico in 1767, Father Clavigero went to Bologna, where he founded a literary academy and pursued diligently his documentary studies in Mexican aboriginal history. He complied there his "Historica antica del Messico (Cesena, 1780), in opposition to the works of De Pauw, Raynal, and Robertson. While the "Historia antica" is the principal work of Clavigero, he had already published in Mexico several writings of minor importance. After his death there appeared "Storia della California ", less appreciated but still not to be neglected by students.

The "Ancient History of Mexico" made considerable impression and met with great favor. Following the book of the Cavaliere Boturini he included a list of sources, paying particular attention to the Indian pictographs, on tissue and other substances, forming part of the Boturini collection, and increasing the list by specimens then extant in various parts of Europe. The catalogue of Indian writers is also taken from Boturini, as Clavigero is careful to state. While materially enlarged since then, and though much additional information has been gained, his catalogue always remains of value. Finally he added a history of the conquest of Mexico. While other Jesuit writers on America, who wrote after the expulsion of the order, like Molina for instance, have maintained in their books an attitude of dignified impartiality, Clavigero has not been able to conceal his resentment for that measure. He does not allude to it, but criticizes the conquerors harshly, extolling at the same time, beyond measure, the character and culture of the Indians. The writings of de Pauw, Adair, and Robertson are severely criticized. The two former have, in their hypercritical tendencies, gone entirely too far in denying to the Indians of certain kind and degree of polity, but Robertson was much more moderate, hence nearer the truth, and more reliable than Clavigero himself. The later is an unsafe guide in American ethnology, on the account of his exaggeration of the culture of the Mexican sedentary tribes. But the systematic arrangement of his work, his style, and the sentimental interest taken in the conquered peoples insured to his book a popular sympathy that for a long time controlled the opinions of students as well as of general readers. The "Storia antica del Messico" was translated into English by Cullen (London, 1787); there is a German translation of the English version (Leipzig, 1789); Spanish editions (London, 1826; Mexico 1844 and 1853).

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.

Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.