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Response to Review of Communication and Conflict: Italian Diplomacy in the Early Renaissance, 1350-1520

I am very grateful for this detailed and generous review of Communication and Conflict. Italian Diplomacy in the Early Renaissance, 1350-1520. Catherine Fletcher’s review not only has underlined what in my view were the key-points of the book (the multiplicity of patterns and chronologies, of agents and practices of a diplomacy that has been for too long linked to a univoque model of state-building), but also has brought out very effectively the main issue of the book, that is the attention to the process of building of a ‘new’ political language rooted in several different traditions and innovatively reworked on Classical texts. Fifteenth- century diplomatic correspondence is crucial in the analysis of such a process because of its wealth and abundance: in this sense, I will definitely agree with Fletcher’s final remarks about further research, particularly on language’s failures and tricks, on all the times in which communication as such didn’t work out, and finally on the literary and intellectual side of such a transformation. Research on Machiavelli and Guicciardini, Castiglioni and Bembo has shown how the workings of their political activity were paramount to their literary sharpness and, one could said, viceversa. I’m thinking here in particular to Biow’s research on Castiglione and to his book on Doctors, Ambassadors, Secretaries[1] and to a cluster of recent works on Machiavelli and Guicciardini[2], but also to the different but parallel research by Ronald Witt, Steve Milner, and Christopher Celenza on humanism and its roots[3].

However, apart from any specific remark or possible further development, I am grateful to Fletcher for her precious emphasis on complexity and the link between complexity and the role of the historian in contemporary world. Renaissance diplomacy could be a topic quite far from everyday life, but diplomacy – and the dynamics between communication and conflict – is not: as recent research on International Relations shows quite well, «the study of diplomacy is anything but obsolete. Redifined to reflect recent historical changes, the subject has arguably never been as important».[4] And in such a context, as Saskia Sassen brings out, looking at earlier historical periods «is a way of raising the levels of complexity in the inquiry about current transformations».[5] That’s all we are about.


[1] D. Biow, ‘Castiglione and the Art of being Inconspicuously Conspicuous’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 38 (2008) 33-55 and Id. Doctors, Ambassadors, Secretaries: Humanism and Professions in Renaissance Italy, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

[2] J.-L. Fournel, J.-C. Zancarini, La grammaire de la République : langages de la politique chez Francesco Guicciardini (1483-1540), Geneva: Droz, 2009; Machiavelli senza i Medici (1498-1512). Scrittura del potere/potere della scrittura, J.-J. Marchand (ed), Rome: Salerno 2006.

[3] R.G. Witt, The Two Latin Cultures and the Foundations of Renaissance Humanism in Medieval Italy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012: C.S. Celenza, The Lost Italian Renaissance: Humanists, Historians and Latin’s Legacy, Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004; S.J. Milner, ‘Communication, Consensus, and Conflict: Rhetorical Precepts, the ars concionandi, and Social Ordering in Late Medieval Italy’, in  The Rhetoric of Cicero in its Medieval and Early Renaissance Commentary Tradition, V. Cox, J.O. Ward (eds), Leiden: Brill, 2006, 221-44.

[4] J.A. Scholte, ‘From Government to Governance: Transition to a New Diplomacy’, in Global Governance and Diplomacy. Worlds Apart?, A. F. Cooper, B. Hocking, W. Maley (eds), London-Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008, 39-60, at 59.

[5] S. Sassen, Territory, Authority, Rights. From Medieval to Global Assemblages, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006, at 11.