Past Conference: 16th-Century Conference Baltimore

This year, the annual conference of the Sixteenth Century Society was held in Baltimore between 26 and 29 October. As I stationed not too far from there this year, it seemed a good opportunity to participate in person.

Instead of presenting from my current project on early modern news, I decided to go back and prepare some material taken from my master’s thesis, which was also based on extensive archival research.

Read my complete abstract here:

The blame for the French descent in Italy of 1494 is not rarely put on Ludovico Sforza. That has not been without reason as he was instrumental in Charles VIII’s advent. The overtly Italian patriotic rhetorics that he would express after his volte-face and adherence to the Italian league in 1495 has therefore raised many eyebrows. Less known, however, are his involvement in discussions on ‘the health of Italy’ while still collaborating with the French the year prior. When reading the correspondence with his Este and Gonzaga relatives residing in their own Padan courts, it is striking how often they dwell upon ‘the matters of Italy’. Already in 1494, before the French had even set foot in Italy, Ludovico seems fully aware that he endangered the international position of his own state as well as those of other Italian princes.

The fact that Ludovico felt pressured to come up with excuses in front of his peers for harming the interests of ‘Italy’ shows that this was a matter of concern among his relatives. A recurring expression in the correspondence is that of ‘Italy and her states’. The elite, therefore, seems to have represented the Italian ‘nation’ first and foremost as the status quo among themselves. As the princes of these states were often related to each other, the notion of the nation is therefore sometimes represented as a family affair, notwithstanding the heavy-handedness which with some of these Renaissance princes treated their relatives.