Negotiating Survival: Florence and the Great Schism, 1378-1417

Negotiating Survival: Florence and the Great Schism, 1378-1417

Negotiating Survival: Florence and the Great Schism, 1378-1417

Negotiating Survival: Florence and the Great Schism, 1378-1417


"Negotiating Survival illuminates the complex and often ambivalent agendas that shaped Florentine policy towards the papacy, contemporary Italian politics, and, ultimately, the city's inhabitants own view of themselves and their beloved republic. Contrary to the vision of the deliberately constructed "state as a work of art" (in Jakob Burchkardt's famous phrase), close reading and analysis of the Consulte e Pratiche support the argument that external events and immediate crises drove the decision-making process in Florence, one of the Renaissance's wealthiest and self-conscious states. Though the long drawn-out wars with Milan in the late fourteenth century helped to shape some civic ideals, the development of an extremely practical, broad, and profound political awareness appears throughout the forty-year span of the Great Schism." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Compromise and negotiation are crucial to any representative government that hopes to maintain internal stability. They are key too in enabling smaller and weaker political entities to survive when facing more powerful and aggressive neighbors. Any scholar surveying the unsettled scene that was Italy during the period of the Great Schism marvels that any commune managed to survive with any degree of independence—and, indeed, many did not. the rivalry between the Avignon and Roman papacies drew the French king and court deeply into Italian affairs; later the Holy Roman Emperors would appear on the scene as well, by invitation of some Italian power, or on their own initiative.

Giangaleazzo Visconti of Milan exploited the weakness of the Papal States that arose from the schism, managing to bring most of northern and central Italy under his sway until his sudden death spared Florence the common fate of submission to the northern lord. No sooner had Milan eased its grip than Ladislaus of Naples began to make similar conquests of papal territories, again threatening the independence and trade relations crucial to Florentine merchants and bankers.

Chronicles and surviving fragments of correspondence and communal records allow historians to catch some glimpse of how various independent Italian communes attempted to negotiate with or resist the demands of local contenders for ecclesiastic positions, the Roman (and occasionally the Avignon) pontiff, military companies in the hire of a recognized power, unlicensed mercenaries, and the usual internally generated crises over forms of government, internecine feuds, rebellions, famine, taxes, and other normal concerns of life in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries.

The archives of Florence, however, offer far greater insight into the daily decision-making processes and considerations that underlay its official actions. Unique among historical resources . . .

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