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The Catholic Historical Review 88.2 (2002) 351-353
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La città dei crucci:
fazioni e clientele in uno stato repubblicano del '400
La città dei crucci: fazioni e clientele in uno stato repubblicano del '400. By William J. Connell. (Florence: Nuova Toscana Editrice. 2000. Pp. x, 318. Lire 30,000.) [End Page 351]
In this excellent book, William Connell traces the experience of the city of Pistoia as part of the Florentine dominion during the fifteenth century. He examines the political and social ties that bound the small Tuscan republic to its larger patron and how, in particular, successive Florentine governments manipulated Pistoia's deeply-rooted factions to extend their authority. Pistoia is an apt case study, for its fate was always closely linked to that of Florence—a fact the Florentines understood well. The book is both archivally and analytically sophisticated and constitutes an impressive addition to the growing literature on the Florentine territorial state.
The book consists of seven chapters, dealing with events from roughly the mid-fourteenth century, when Florence first took nominal control of Pistoia, until the Pistoiese civil war of 1499-1502. Connell lays the groundwork for his argument in the first chapter with an important reassessment of David Herlihy's demographic and economic interpretations regarding the town. Connell gently corrects the great scholar's assertions (and methodology) and argues persuasively that Pistoia's "recovery" did not occur in the early fifteenth century—concurrent with its decisive entry into the Florentine state—but in the middle of the fifteenth century. The adjustment brings Pistoia more into line with other Tuscan examples, notably Arezzo, Sansepolcro, and Prato, and allows Connell to detach Pistoia's recovery from an explicitly Florentine context. Connell also shows that the Pistoiese patriciate in the initial years retained significant autonomy, as well as control over much of its agricultural resources.
Connell next addresses the important issue of Pistoiese factions. Pistoia was legendary for the intensity and duration of its internal discords, which coalesced around two families, the Panciatichi and Cancellieri (even the American president John Adams cited Pistoia as a fractious example to avoid). Connell offers a fascinating and original discussion of the structure and organization of the factions. He traces their roots into the countryside and examines how they perpetuated themselves through marriage and recruitment of young people.
Chapters three, four, five, six, and seven deal with the central theme of the book: "clientism" and the manner in which Florence exercised its authority in Pistoia. Connell argues that from the first Florentine political elites took careful account of Pistoiese factions and, rather than suppress them, worked with them. The rise to power of the Medici in Florence brought a more personal arrangement, a greater emphasis on "friendship" apart from institutions. Cosimo de' Medici used his prestige to patronize both sides, as well as those independent of the major factions. The personal touch was extended by Cosimo's heirs, particularly Lorenzo the Magnificent, who often energetically intervened in Pistoiese affairs. The discussion regarding Lorenzo is intriguing methodologically for its use of the Medici carteggio in the Florentine archives (Mediceo avanti il Principato). Connell's presentation of the career of Mariano da Pistoia, the so-called "creature" of the Medici, as an illustration of Lorenzo's methods of control is suggestive, but strikes the reader as a touch digressive. Connell then traces changes in pattern of clientage brought on by the collapse [End Page 352] of the Medici regime in 1494 and how these eventually led to the ruinous civil war of 1499-1502.
The conclusions essentially restate the major themes of the book. Connell is quite right when he says that his study is as much about Florence as it is about Pistoia. In stimulating and often innovative ways, Connell succeeds in illuminating both the history of fifteenth-century Pistoia and the manner in which Florence managed its territorial state.