The Italian States on the Eve of the New Invasions 1

The Italian States on the Eve of the New Invasions Part 1


According to, the Italian states in this time have continued the work of internal organization which is, more or less, of all the states of Europe, in this phase of social and therefore institutional transformation, in the sense of greater state centralization, leveling of classes , suppression of particular “freedoms”, impulse of economic activities, juridical and moral elevation of the prince.

This work had begun with the communes and the Normans and some of the more robust, more isolated feudal lordships, less exposed to the corrosive action of urbanism and capitalism. It had proceeded through institutional crises and interruptions and returns of anarchy. Statutes of minor subject cities have been assimilated to the statute of the main city, such as Milan; laws to be valid for the whole domain have been published; to all subjects, from any city or castle, an attempt was made to ensure the right to own real estate in any city or castle of the domain, in derogation of the municipal statutes that granted this right only to citizens (and Gian Galeazzo, at the end of ‘300, experienced how difficult it was to implement this reform, nor can it be said that it succeeded); some greater equalization or minor tax inequality has been established between citizens and peasants, etc. Now, this work was accelerated somewhat. More care was taken in matters of economy and production, also so that each state would suffice as much as possible for itself and have the maximum autonomy. What was the ideal of the cities now became the ideal of the prince. It was also about avoiding the exodus of money out of the state. Thus certain industries were encouraged and protected. Several internal barriers were removed or lowered. Mining research was promoted and also, here and there, the arms factory. More still, perhaps, he paid attention to the land, the one that had suffered the most from the war and the more he could take advantage of peace. New crops were introduced or promoted, previously absent or limited to a few areas: mulberry, rice, dyeing materials, soon corn. In certain places, such as in Lazio, an attempt was made to regulate the chaotic matter of civic uses, for the benefit of the communities. Sixtus IV made some effort to improve the Pontine marshes and give value to the Agro Romano, through canals and roads. In the lower Po Valley, reclamation, improvement of sheep and equine breeds. After all, the times, wherever they look, led to the earth. By then, cities and urban life had reached their peak in many areas of upper and middle Italy: and a certain outflow of population began here and there. Industrial development, in the major industrial centers, had stabilized and in some places was already showing signs of declining; investment in foreign loans or in distant businesses declined rather than increased. The social groups ascended with the trafficking came to greatness: and therefore there was not only the passion for good spending, instead of that of accumulating a lot; not only the extensive use of capital in palaces, works of art, jewels, luxury, but also the investment in land. Recently formed wealth, unstable capitals or survivors of the shipwreck, tried to ennoble themselves and consolidate themselves in farms and villas, take refuge within the alma parens. Whatever the motives were, at the end of the 15th century it could be seen from Guicciardini that all the Italian arable land, even the mountain slopes, was cultivated in various ways. This statement is not to be taken literally. But it is an acknowledgment of agricultural progress, to which demographic progress certainly also responded, even some greater equilibrium between the citizenry world and the rural world. The socio-economic fact also had its repercussions in culture, ideas and ideals. The study of agricultural facts arose. The editions of the manual by Pietro de ‘Crescenzî, who had been the first representative of an agricultural literature, multiplied. Vegetable nature was the object of the most lively and warm attention. The farmer was looked at with a different eye, a better evaluation made its way, as of agriculture as well as of the farmer; it was also recognized that the humble peasant owed many benefits to the city and, vice versa, many of its vices traditionally reproached him – avarice, simulation, theft, etc. – the peasant owed the hard urban owner; there was also some praise of peasant virtues, even of the warrior virtues. Men like Leon Battista Alberti participated in this great passion of the fields. It was a love of recollection and meditation, a love of nature, questioned and listened to, admired in its order which was a reflection of divine order and perfection.

But this work of internal consolidation was difficult and slow, in a country like Italy in the 15th century, which suffered here from too little economic and social development, there too from too much development, in the context of the cities. Some regions had been deeply upset by the long phase of wars and anarchy through which they had passed: such as the kingdom of Naples. The population here had halved. The continuous changes of dynasty, making the action and authority of the prince extremely discontinuous and uncertain, had worn down those moral bonds between the prince and his subjects which make the work of government profitable. The frequent and almost always decisive intervention of foreign powers had created in the minds a state of uncertainty and perennial expectation, which had to make public trust and civil industriousness difficult. Add the Spanish origin of the dynasty: therefore, spiritually little in tune with the nation. Because if, after Alfonso, it was assimilated to the country, the new barony was not equally assimilated. Who, old or new, divided and torn by a thousand discords within himself, was equal and concordant in the spirit of rebellion against the prince, in the spirit of robbery against the people. His political power in the government was diminished: but his authority over vassals grew, also because the king’s use of feuding cities, out of need for money, grew. It is also easy for this baronage to find help outside the territory: in the Roman baronage which, having many fiefdoms in the kingdom, is in solidarity with the king; in the pope himself who always wants to keep that king sub ungula . It was in vain that Ferdinando, son of Alfonso, tried to change the castle nobility into courtly nobility.

The Italian States on the Eve of the New Invasions 1