Folly is here drawing on popular caricatures and proverbial national characteristics, most of which occur elsewhere in Erasmus's writings, but which have little to do with Erasmus's personal views about the countries he mentions. Apart from the gratifying remarks about England, where Erasmus spent some of what must have been the happiest years of his life, the most noteworthy comments concern the Scots, the French and the Italians.
In the early sixteenth century many Scotsmen taught philosophy at Paris, which was undoubtedly the intellectual capital of northern Europe and whose theology faculty was totally intent on the preservation of medieval orthodoxy, concerned neither with pastoral needs nor even, as a body, with monastic reform. Both the English and the French owed much to the new learning and new values which they found south of the Alps, but the French especially were at the same time concerned to vindicate the superiority and antiquity of their own culture, for which they invented a glorious history. Anti-Italian jokes appear early in sixteenth-century France and are a byproduct of the new national consciousness, often based on an attempt to revive twelfth-century glories.
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