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  • La società dei principi nell'Europa moderna (secoli XVI-XVII)
  • Christine Shaw
Christof Dipper and Mario Rosa , eds. La società dei principi nell'Europa moderna (secoli XVI–XVII). Quaderni dell' Istituto storico italo-germanico in Trento 66. Bologna: Il Mulino, 2005. 384 pp. illus. €25. ISBN: 88-15-10112-8.

This collection of essays originated in a conference held at the Centro per gli studi storici italo-germanici at Trent in September 2001. It appears that the organizers of the conference may have had in mind the theme of the relation between princes as dynasts and as lords of their territories, although the majority of the essays do not really confront this issue. They form a rather disparate group, mostly dealing with various Italian and German princely families. This is not to say that there is not much of interest in the volume.

After a brief introduction by Mario Rosa, Lucien Bély opens the collection with a general discussion of "La società dei principi," stressing the ineluctable association between the prince as an individual, a member of a family with complex connections to other princes and their families, and the prince and his dynasty as part of the political structure and the political society of his state.

Richard Stauber contrasts the identification of the various branches of the Wittelsbach with specific territories in fifteenth-century chronicles and genealogies, with the wish of the Habsburgs to be identified with the empire rather than with Austria in particular. The struggle of the Elector of Brandenburg in the sixteenth century to be accepted as the peer of the other electoral princes is emphasized by Frank Göse. An analysis of the ecclesiastical princes of Germany from 1650 to 1750 by Peter Hersche concentrates on their background, early careers, and the factors that facilitated their elections, although he also makes some interesting comments contrasting their temporal government with that of secular princes. Robert von Friedeburg compares the policies of Philip of Hesse in the first half of the sixteenth century with that of his grandson, Maurice of Hesse-Kassel; both aimed to cut a prominent figure in the empire, both thought of the prince as an autonomous figure within it, and neither was concerned to construct a modern state. A treatise on princely government, the Synopsis of Johann Angelicus Werdenhagen, is analysed by Diego Quaglioni, who argues that he was providing a political guide for princes who wanted to promote religious peace.

Elena Fasano Guarini in her discussion of how the Duke of Florence established his rule over the territory which had been built up by the republic provides [End Page 926] a summary of her own earlier work and that of others rather than new research; as usual, however, her analysis is cogent and useful. A case study by Alessandra Contini of Eleonora de Toledo, the consort of Duke Cosimo I of Florence, stresses her prominent role in building up the patrimony of the new dynasty by her business interests and property management. In her analysis of the role of princesses, particularly the diverse trio of Leonora of Portugal, consort of the Emperor Frederick III, Caterina Sforza, and Mary of Hasburg, Katherine Walsh comes to the unsurprising conclusion that their effective weight and influence varied according to their personality and political circumstances. In one of the most valuable essays, Alessandro Barbaro places the efforts of the Dukes of Savoy from the mid-fifteenth to the late sixteenth century to exploit the military obligations of their subjects in the context of thinking about the military revolution. Rather less substantial is the contribution of Paolo Preto, who brings together comments from the relazioni of Venetian ambassadors on the monarchies of France and Spain. Mattias Oberli analyzes the patronage of the arts as a means of asserting power and dignity in the competitive society of seventeenth-century Rome; papal nephews who had shown no previous interest in the arts before their family had power became extravagant patrons, although sometimes works that were acquired were left to languish in storerooms.

One connecting thread that links several of these contributions is the indifference of most of the princes to constructing a modern state, and the...


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Archived 2009
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