The Politics of Exile in Renaissance Italy

The Politics of Exile in Renaissance Italy

The Politics of Exile in Renaissance Italy

The Politics of Exile in Renaissance Italy

Synopsis

Political exiles were a prominent feature of political life during the Renaissance, often a source of intense concern to the states from which they were banished, and a ready instrument for governments wishing to intervene in the affairs of their rivals and enemies. This book provides the first systematic analysis of the role of exiles in the political life of fifteenth-century Italy. It also provides fresh perspectives on the nature and power of governments during this period, and on ideas about the legitimacy of political authority and political action.

Excerpt

However they came to be there, many of those who found themselves in exile would have been the subject of a formal sentence. This might have been handed down before the exile left, and be the reason for his leaving. It might have been passed on someone who had already departed. Those driven out at the point of the sword by factional rivals could be sentenced later. Even those who had gone into voluntary exile to avoid trouble could be subject to penalties if they did not return when invited, or ordered, to do so. How these sentences were handed down–who decided on them, who issued them (not necessarily the same people), what justifications were adduced - bring out interesting aspects of notions of the state, and of political legitimacy in Renaissance Italy. What reason could a victorious political faction give for the expulsion of their rivals? What procedures could they adopt to give legal validation to political proscription? How far could a faction equate their interests with those of the state? The responses of the exiles to their predicament can be equally illuminating. Would they regard the sentences against them as lawful, would they regard them as justified? Did they consider that they had been exiled by the government, or by their enemies? Did they accept that their exile came within the rules of the political game? What did they consider to be a legitimate reponse?

The real reasons behind sentences of political exile from Siena ranged from conspiracy with foreign rulers, to being a member of a monte excluded from political office, to merely being related to someone who had incurred the odium of influential men in the regime of the day. This latter reason was, of course, never made explicit in the official records. Some sentences would be easier to justify to non-partisans than others. Frequently, only a vaguely worded accusation, or no explanation at all, would be recorded with the sentence. Whether or not it was possible to provide evidence of wrongdoing or malign intent that constituted a threat to the security of the republic and the welfare of the city . . .

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