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Response to Review of The Medici: Citizens and Masters

I am glad that Dr Nicholas Baker has recognized the important original contribution of the volume, The Medici.Citizens and Masters, but I do not read the articles in the way he suggests:  'The reality of the volume’s contents lives up to the creative potential of this tension between the republican/signorial division that Black outlines in the introduction but does not cleave as cleanly between the two poles as he suggests. While the majority of contributors do align themselves with one or the other position, a significant number (eight of 22) instead emphasize the ambiguity of the Medici position in Florence. Moreover, even many of those within either the republican or the signorial camp depict a picture that reflects complexity and nuance as much as clarity.' What I think nearly all the contributors to this volume have done is to attempt to look beneath the surface to what they have regarded as the genuine drift of Medici policy, each tending to favour, in the end, either the civic or the proto-princely interpretation of their regime – perspectives that are minimized by Dr Baker, who, with his emphasis on 'complexity and nuance', tends to homogenize what are, in my reading, a group of distinctive and heterogeneous interpretations. 

An example is the article by Riccardo Fubini.  Francesco Guicciardini, in his Storie fiorentine, stated that Lorenzo the Magnificent intended to make himself gonfalonier of justice for life, a role he was prevented from assuming only by his premature death.  Melissa Bullard discounts this evidence in her contribution to the volume, but Riccardo Fubini, in his study, accepts Guiccardini's testimony, stating that this was the ultimate logic of the Medici regime.  A life gonfaloniership for Lorenzo would have been the constitutional equivalent of the titles sometimes adopted by signori throughout north and central Italy (for example Guido della Torre, who in 1308 assumed the title of lifetime captain of the people in Milan, succeeded by Matteo Visconti as dominus et rector generalis comunis et hominum civitatis et districtus Mediolani for life in 1313).  Summarizing Fubini's interpretation, Baker writes, 'Riccardo Fubini instead tackles the Rubinstein thesis on its own ground, to argue not so much that the Medici were signori but rather that their regime was clearly neither constitutional nor republican. During the 15th century, Florence was in "a state of permanent and irreversible crisis" (p. 63) that the Medici exploited by governing through "an informal configuration of power" (p. 62), which Lorenzo hoped to replace with a new constitution with himself as prince or gonfaloniere a vita.'  But a regime 'clearly neither constitutional nor republican' is not what Fubini suggests here:  his view is that Lorenzo intended to move from an impermanent regime to a formal princely state through the institution of a life gonfalonierate of justice.  Baker fails to see the contradiction in his own formulation, when, on the one hand, he writes that, according to Fubini, it was 'not so much that the Medici were signori', but, on the other, states that, in Fubini's view, 'Lorenzo hoped to replace [the existing Medici informal configuration of power] with a new constitution with himself as prince.'  Such inconsistency is not down to Fubini.