The Florentine Archives in Transition: Government, Warfare and Communication (1289–1530 ca.)
By Andrea Guidi
European Historical Quarterly, Vol.46:3 (2016)
Abstract: A turning point in European administrative and documentary practices was traditionally associated, most famously by Robert-Henri Bautier, with the monarchies of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. By summarizing previous research in this field, as well as by using both published and unpublished sources, this article intends to underline an earlier process of transition connected to the development of significant new techniques for the production and preservation of documents in Renaissance Italian city-states.
Focusing on the important case of Florence, the administrative uses of records connected to government, diplomacy and military needs will be discussed, and evidence will be provided that such documentary practices accelerated significantly during the so-called Italian Wars (from 1494 onwards). A particular reason of interest for Florence at this time is that a major role in the production and storage of a large quantity of state papers was played by Niccolò Machiavelli, one of the outstanding political thinkers of the age. This was especially true in connection to the new militia which he himself created in 1506.
By stressing the role of information management and the importance of correspondence networks at a time of war and crisis, this article also contributes to recent scholarship which has focused on the growth of public records relating to diplomacy in Italy during the second half of the fifteenth century, as well as to a recent field of historiography which has lately gained importance: namely the ‘documentary history of institutions’.