Renaissance Italy

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POLITICS IN RENAISSANCE
FLORENCE
EVALUATING CHANGE AND CONTINUITY IN THE
ORGANISATION, DISTRIBUTION AND USE OF POWER
WHERE TO BEGIN?
• By the end of the C13th virtually all the
independent communal governments on
the Italian peninsula have been replaced
by signores (rule by a lord)
Florence’s Republic is not typical. It
is a unique exception!
A COMPLEX STORY
“In Florence men naturally love equality and are
therefore very unwilling to accept and recognise
others as their superiors. We are by temperament
full of strong passions and restlessness, and it is this
which is the cause of discord and disunity among
the ruling elite. Through their desire to dominate
each other, they pull this person here and that
one there… The fact that others dislike anyone
being superior to themselves ensures that
whenever this happens, these men are
destroyed.”
Dialogue on the government of Florence Francesco Guicciardini
UNDERSTANDING POWER
From the study design:
• Political institutions in Florence
• Changes and continuities in the
organisation, distribution and use of power in
Renaissance Florence from 1293 to 1513
• Focus on Medicean Florence from 1434 to
1494
• Views of the Florentine political system
expressed by contemporary writers and
historians such as Bruni and Machiavelli
4 PHASES OF POLITICAL
DEVELOPMENT
• Ordinances of Justice
1293 – 1382 – Guild government
• Ciompi Revolt
1382 – 1434 – Merchant Oligarchy
• Exile and return of Cosimo De Medici
1434 – 1494 – Medicean dominance
• The French invasion and the overthrow of
Medici rule
1494 – 1513 – Radical republic
• Return of the Medici (with Spanish support) –
Dukes of Florence (end of the Republic)
KEY - UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGING
NATURE OF REPUBLICANISM
• Knowing how
something is put
together is worth
a thousand facts
about it
• The Florentine
Republic means
different things to
different people
at different times!
Using knowledge to
make judgements
MAGNATE VIOLENCE AND
INTIMIDATION
THINK ROMEO & JULIET!
NEED FOR STRONG, ACTIVE AND
INTRUSIVE GOVERNMENT
• Turbulent and violence-prone society
• Belief that government should establish
order and regulation
• Not a community that trusted its members to
live in peace and harmony without
coercion
SECONDO POPOLO (C13TH)
• Use of guild militias to take public control of
streets and squares
• An extensive building program creating new
spaces that defined and represented new
Republican ideals of participation, liberty
and justice. Including the building of the
Palazzo della Signoria
• The Ordinances of Justice
PALAZZO DELLA SIGNORIA & PIAZZA
ORDINANCES OF JUSTICE
- 1293
1292 - Priorate of Guilds
1293 – Draft of the
Ordinances of Justice
Two main functions –
1. To exclude and isolate the
magnates
2. To give the 21 official
guilds of the city complete
control over the political
process of the Republic
LEONARDI BRUNI
• As Chancellor of the city
he praised Florence as the
NEW ROME
• His tomb in the Church of
Santa Croce was a
masterpiece carved in
marble
• Bruni is represented a lying
in state in the toga of a
Roman Senator
BRUNI
• “Those citizens with too great a power of
numbers and of force at their command”
(=MAGNATES) were excluded from holding
public office while “mechanics and members
of the lowest class” were not allowed any role
in the state (=LABOURING CLASSES). “Thus
avoiding the extremes, the city look[ed] to the
mean, or rather to the best and the wealthy but
not overpowerful”(=CITIZENS/POPOLO who
belonged to GUILDS)
• Leonardo Bruni (1404) “In praise of Florence”
GUILD REPUBLIC WAS NOT A
DEMOCRACY
Mass in the middle were politically active
citizens
• Artisans
• Shopkeepers
•
•
•
•
From lesser
guilds
Merchants
Cloth manufacturers
Bankers
Professionals
From greater
guilds
PARTICIPATION
• More than 1000 citizens each year
participated in the political process directly
by being elected to office
• More than 1000 citizens each year assembled
as members of the legislative councils
• Guild members also participated in politics
through
• Guild administration
• Neighbourhood committees
• Confraternities and assemblies linked to local
parishes
GUILD REPUBLICANISM
• Guild members wanted a political voice
• That is, decisions and policies formulated by
citizens (=guild members) chosen to
represent the whole community (=guilds)
REPUBLICAN VALUES
“Now first of all, great care is taken so that
justice is held most sacred in the city, for without
justice there can be no city, nor would Florence
be even worthy to be called a city. Next there is
provision for liberty, without which this great
people would not even consider that life was
worth living. These two principles are joined
(almost as a stamp or goal) to all the institutions
and statutes that the Florentine government has
created”
– Bruni (1404) Panegyric “In praise of Florence”
POWER STRUGGLES BETWEEN SOCIAL
GROUPS
Ottimati – elite families
Popolo guilds
Popolo minuto
– labouring
classes
THE CIOMPI REVOLT & THE REPUBLIC
(1378)
“The most striking characteristic of these rebels was their
innate conservatism, their respect for tradition, their
adherence to the old forms and rituals. Perhaps it would
be more accurate to say that , like every other group in
Florentine society, the popolo minute accepted the
economic system….Neither in the petitions, nor
presumably among the Ciompi themselves was there an
articulated demand for the destruction of the regime
and the establishment of a new egalitarian order.
Illustrative of lower-class conservatism was the Ciompi’s
acceptance of the constitutional structures under which
it had been suppressed and exploited for a century”
- Brucker
OTTIMATI – DIFFERENT VIEW OF
REPUBLICANISM
• Emergence of elite families who attempted to
dominate the city (Merchant oligarchy)
• Resented elements of the popolo after the
Ciompi Revolt and limited their involvement in
the political process
• New avenues to power – personal and family
patronage networks
• Period of bitter rivalries and factional quarrels
that destabilised Florence
• Period of successive crises – drained wealth, civil
unrest, divided leadership and factionalism
THE MEDICI (1434)
• One family come to dominate the city
• Party/faction of family connections, friends
and neighbourhood loyalties
• Governed Florence indirectly for 60 years
• Ordinary Florentines viewed the Medici as
defenders of the city’s Republican values
MEDICI ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE
REPUBLIC
• Concentration of power in the hands of the
patriarchs of the Medici family
•
•
•
•
Political skill
Vast wealth
Powerful patronage network
Ruthless destruction of enemies (exile & exclusion)
BUT preserved Republican institutions
Najemy – By 1471, the Republic had already
become an “empty shell”
UNDERSTAND HOW THE MEDICI
CHANGED THE REPUBLIC
• Maintained but manipulated formal institutions
• Use of informal means to consolidate power
• Strategies
• Use of Balie (commissions with emergency powers)
• Manipulation of the accopiatori (committee who
managed the electoral process)
• Excluded rivals from electoral lists
• Replaced independent and foreign magistrates and
judges with loyal supporters
• Used tax system to destroy enemies and reward
friends
• Used treason laws to extinguish criticism of the Medici
family
PATRONAGE
• Petitioners
appealed to
Lorenzo for support
and favours
Jobs/positions
Tax exemptions
Criminal sentences
Arranging
marriages
• Business
opportunities
•
•
•
•
CHALLENGES TO MEDICI
RULE
• Florentine elites never wholly
accepted Medici rule and
resented domination
• In every generation, there
was a significant challenge
to power (Pazzi conspiracy
being the most important)
1479 drawing by Leonardo da
Vinci of hanged Pazzi conspirator
Bernardo di Bandino Baroncelli
LORENZO DE MEDICI
“Prince in everything but
name” – Pope Pius II
Overtly controlled the
Republic through –
• Manipulation of
Republican institutions
• Control of the major guilds
• Interference in the Church
and confraternities
RESTORATION OF THE REPUBLIC (1494)
• Foreign invasion & Medici rule
collapses
• Opportunity to restore “liberty,
freedom and good government”
• Restoration of institutions and
structures the Medici dismantled
• New Great Council (25% of adult
male population eligible for a
seat)
• Most democratic form of
Republicanism for 100 years
SAVONAROLA
• Firebrand monk
who pursued a
program of
moral and
religious reform
• Powerful political
voice of the new
Republic
• Bizarre and grizzly
end!
DISORDER, CHAOS & COLLAPSE
• New Republican
government ineffective
• Government
undermined on every
side
• Climate of anxiety
• Weaknesses of the
system ruthlessly
exposed (writings of
Machiavelli)
“A PARADISE INHABITED BY DEVILS.”
AGNOLO ACCIAIUOLI
GOOD LUCK FOR THE REST OF
YOUR STUDY!
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