Women, Family, and Society in Medieval Europe: Historical Essays, 1978-1991

By David Herlihy; A. Molho | Go to book overview

18
THE RULERS OF FLORENCE, 1282-1530

L ike the Roman Republic in antiquity, the republic of Florence in the late Middle Ages called to its offices significant numbers of its citizens. In this chapter, I attempt to survey Florence's governing class from the commune of the popolo in the thirteenth century to the establishment of the grand duchy of Tuscany in 1530. As I hope to illustrate, the numbers of citizens considered for office increased continuously, even spectacularly, from the early fourteenth to the late fifteenth centuries. This observation is by no means new. Many historians have noted that the size of the officeholding class grew in Florence from the latter half of the fourteenth century.1 This growth

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1
See, for example, G. A. Brucker, Florentine Politics and Society, 1343-1378 ( Princeton, 1962) who, after reviewing the legislation of the 1340s that aimed to limit the numbers entering office, notes (p. 123) that "in 1350 the trend actually shifted in the opposite direction, toward a more popular regime." G. A. Brucker, The Civic World of Early Renaissance Florence ( Princeton, 1977), p. 73, sees a reinforcement of aristocratic rule after 1393, but even this is questioned by G. Guidi, il govemo della città-repubblica di Firenze del primo quattrocento, I: Politica e diritto Pubblico, Il: Gli istituti "di dentro" che componevano il governo di Firenze nel 1415; III: Il contado e distretto, Biblioteca Storica Toscana, 20 ( Florence, 1981), 1, p. 240. D. V. Kent, "The Florentine Reggimento in the Fifteenth Century," Renaissance Quarterly, 28 ( 1975), pp. 575-638, notes a continuing expansion through the end of her study, up until 1449. R. P. Cooper, "The Florentine Ruling Group under the Governo Popolare," Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History, 7 ( 1984-85), pp. 71-181, accepts these conclusions but argues that only the expulsion of Piero de' Medici in 1494 led to a partial closure of the office- holding class; however, even by her figures the size of the class remained large. For further discussion of the changing complexion of Florentine governments (a subject of seemingly limitless fascination for historians), see, besides Brucker, Florentine Politics and The Civic World, and Guidi, Il govemo; A. Molho, "The Florentine Oligarchy and the Balie of the Late Trecento," Speculurn, 43 ( 1968), pp. 23-51; and A. Molho, "Politics and the Ruling Class in Early Renaissance Florence," "Nuova Rivista Storica 52", ( 1968), pp. 401-20; R. G. Witt, "Florentine Politics and the Ruling Class, 1382-1407," Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 6, ( 1976), pp. 243-67; and, more recently, J. Najemy, Corporatism and Consensus in Florentine Electoral Politics ( Chapel Hill, N.C., 1982), though the last work is more concerned with the general character of Florentine government than its personnel. F. Gilbert, Machiavelli and Guicciardini, Politics and History in Sixteenth-Century Florence ( Princeton, 1965), depicts the changes at the end of the republican regime and offers a masterful analysis of their effects upon Machiavelli and Guicciardini. S. Bertelli, Il potere oligarchico nello stato-città medievale ( Florence, 1978), provides a useful overview.

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