Counting the Correspondence: letters from the Italian Wars

Nowadays writing someone a letter might be regard as quite a statement, but in the past epistolary activities were a continuous and everyday affair. For medieval and early-modern diplomacy in particular, the letter played a fundamental role. It was a means of maintaining relationships and exchanging information. Noble families relied on chancelleries to aid them in the process. Having said that, personal and political ties were strongly intertwined and there was no such thing as separate diplomatic and private correspondence. Nonetheless, political upheavals could have their effect on the intensity of chancellery activities. We will look further into the matter following three Renaissance families, the Gonzaga from Mantua, d’Este from Ferrara and finally the Sforza from Milan in a very particular moment in time. In the years 1494-95, Charles VIII, King of France, led his troops down the Italian peninsula in order to defend his claims to the Kingdom of Naples. We will pay particular attention to the shifting frequency of written letters, especially that of Ludovico Sforza, the de facto ruler of Milan who played quite a few tricks on his political allies during the course of the war.

Continue reading Counting the Correspondence: letters from the Italian Wars