Francesco Guicciardini
Francesco Guicciardini (franˈtʃesko gwit'tʃardini; March 6, 1483 – May 22, 1540) was an Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

 and statesman
A statesman is usually a politician or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career in politics or government at the national and international level. As a term of respect, it is usually left to supporters or commentators to use the term...

. A friend and critic of Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was an Italian historian, philosopher, humanist, and writer based in Florence during the Renaissance. He is one of the main founders of modern political science. He was a diplomat, political philosopher, playwright, and a civil servant of the Florentine Republic...

, he is considered one of the major political writers of the Italian Renaissance
Italian Renaissance
The Italian Renaissance began the opening phase of the Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned the period from the end of the 13th century to about 1600, marking the transition between Medieval and Early Modern Europe...

. Guicciardini is considered as the Father of Modern History, due to his use of government documents to verify his "History of Italy." He was the uncle of Lodovico Guicciardini
Lodovico Guicciardini
Lodovico Guicciardini was an Italian writer and merchant from Florence, but who lived primarily in Antwerp. He was the nephew of historian and diplomat Francesco Guicciardini.-Description of the Low Countries:...

 who wrote a description of the Low Countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....

 in 1567.

Early life

Guicciardini was born in Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 in the year 1483; humanist Marsilio Ficino
Marsilio Ficino
Marsilio Ficino was one of the most influential humanist philosophers of the early Italian Renaissance, an astrologer, a reviver of Neoplatonism who was in touch with every major academic thinker and writer of his day, and the first translator of Plato's complete extant works into Latin...

 held him at the font of baptism. His family was illustrious and noble; and his ancestors for many generations had held the highest posts of honor in the state, as may be seen in his own genealogical Ricordi autobiografici e di famiglia. After the usual education of a boy in grammar and elementary classical studies, his father, Piero, sent him to the universities of Ferrara
University of Ferrara
The University of Ferrara is the main university of the city of Ferrara in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. In the years prior to the First World War the University of Ferrara, with more than 500 students, was the best attended of the free universities in Italy...

 and Padua
University of Padua
The University of Padua is a premier Italian university located in the city of Padua, Italy. The University of Padua was founded in 1222 as a school of law and was one of the most prominent universities in early modern Europe. It is among the earliest universities of the world and the second...

, where he stayed until the year 1505.

The death of an uncle, who had occupied the see of Cortona, induced the young Guicciardini to hanker after an ecclesiastical career. Guicciardini, whose motives were confessedly ambitious, then turned his attention to law, and at the age of twenty-three was appointed by the Signoria
A Signoria was an abstract noun meaning 'government; governing authority; de facto sovereignty; lordship in many of the Italian city states during the medieval and renaissance periods....

 of Florence to read the Institutes in public. Shortly afterwards he engaged himself in marriage to Maria, daughter of Alamanno Salviati
Medici family tree
-Medici family tree :...

, prompted, as he frankly tells us, by the political support which an alliance with that great family would bring him.

He was then practicing at the bar, where he won so much distinction that the Signoria, in 1512, entrusted him with an embassy to the court of the King of Aragon
Crown of Aragon
The Crown of Aragon Corona d'Aragón Corona d'Aragó Corona Aragonum controlling a large portion of the present-day eastern Spain and southeastern France, as well as some of the major islands and mainland possessions stretching across the Mediterranean as far as Greece...

, Ferdinand the Catholic. "No one could remember at Florence that such a young man had ever been chosen for such an embassy," he wrote in his diary.

Start of career beyond Florence

Guicciardini started his career as a diplomat and statesman. His conduct upon that legation was afterwards severely criticized: his political antagonists accused him of betraying the true interests of the commonwealth, and using his influence for the restoration of the exiled house of Medici
The House of Medici or Famiglia de' Medici was a political dynasty, banking family and later royal house that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de' Medici in the Republic of Florence during the late 14th century. The family originated in the Mugello region of the Tuscan countryside,...

 to power.

His Spanish
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 correspondence with the Signoria reveals Guicciardini's power of observation and analysis which was a chief quality of his mind; in Ferdinand, hypocritical and profoundly dissimulative, he found a proper object for his scientific study. Guicciardini's autobiographical memories show that he was ambitious, calculating, avaricious and power-loving from his earliest years; and in Spain he had no more than an opportunity of studying on a large scale those political vices which already ruled the minor potentates of Italy.

Guicciardini issued from this first trial of his skill with an assured reputation for diplomatic ability, as that was understood in Italy. To unravel plots and weave counterplots; to meet treachery with fraud; to parry force with sleights of hand; to credit human nature with the basest motives, while the blackest crimes were contemplated with cold enthusiasm for their cleverness, was reckoned then the height of political sagacity.

Papal service

In 1513 Giovanni Medici, the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, became Pope Leo X and brought Florence under Papal control. This provided opportunities for Florentines to enter Papal service, and in 1515 he began working for the papacy. Leo X made him governor of Reggio
Reggio Emilia
Reggio Emilia is an affluent city in northern Italy, in the Emilia-Romagna region. It has about 170,000 inhabitants and is the main comune of the Province of Reggio Emilia....

 in 1516 and Modena
Modena is a city and comune on the south side of the Po Valley, in the Province of Modena in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy....

 in 1517. This was the beginning of a long career for Guicciardini in Papal administration, first under Leo X, and then his successor, Clement VII. "He governed Modena and Reggio with conspicuous success," according to The Catholic Encyclopedia, and he was appointed to govern Parma
Parma is a city in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna famous for its ham, its cheese, its architecture and the fine countryside around it. This is the home of the University of Parma, one of the oldest universities in the world....

. In that city, according to the Encyclopedia, "in the confusion that followed the pope's death, he distinguished himself by his defence of Parma against the French (1521)."

In 1523 he was appointed viceregent of Romagna
Romagna is an Italian historical region that approximately corresponds to the south-eastern portion of present-day Emilia-Romagna. Traditionally, it is limited by the Apennines to the south-west, the Adriatic to the east, and the rivers Reno and Sillaro to the north and west...

 by Pope Clement VII (1478–1534). These high offices rendered Guicciardini the virtual master of the papal states beyond the Apennines
Apennine mountains
The Apennines or Apennine Mountains or Greek oros but just as often used alone as a noun. The ancient Greeks and Romans typically but not always used "mountain" in the singular to mean one or a range; thus, "the Apennine mountain" refers to the entire chain and is translated "the Apennine...

, during a period of great bewilderment and difficulty. In 1526 Clement gave him still higher rank as lieutenant-general of the papal army. While holding this commission, he had the humiliation of witnessing from a distance the sack of Rome
Sack of Rome (1527)
The Sack of Rome on 6 May 1527 was a military event carried out by the mutinous troops of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor in Rome, then part of the Papal States...

 and the imprisonment of Clement, without being able to rouse the perfidious Duke of Urbino into activity. The blame of Clement's downfall did not rest with him; for it was merely his duty to attend the camp, and keep his master informed of the proceedings of the generals. Guicciardini had anyway previously counselled the pope to declare war, as he notes in a letter to himself written in 1527.

Guicciardini went to Florence, but by 1527 the Medici had been expelled from the city and a republic set up. Because of his close ties to the Medici, Guicciardini was held suspect in his native city, and he fled in 1529 to the Papal Court.

Despite Guicciardini's regrets about his earlier counsel to the pope, Clement did not withdraw his confidence, and in 1531 Guicciardini was advanced to the governorship of Bologna
Bologna is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna, in the Po Valley of Northern Italy. The city lies between the Po River and the Apennine Mountains, more specifically, between the Reno River and the Savena River. Bologna is a lively and cosmopolitan Italian college city, with spectacular history,...

, the most important cities in the northern Papal States. This post he resigned in 1534 on the election of Paul III, preferring to follow the fortunes of the Medici princes. Although Guicciardini served three popes through a period of twenty years, or perhaps because of this, he hated the papacy with a deep and frozen bitterness, attributing the woes of Italy to the ambition of the church, and declaring he had seen enough of sacerdotal abominations to make him a Lutheran.

Service to the Medici

The same discord between his private opinions and his public actions may be traced in his conduct subsequent to 1534. As a political theorist, Guicciardini believed that the best form of government was a commonwealth administered upon the type of the Venetian
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

 constitution; and he had judged the tyranny of the Medici at its true worth. Yet he did not hesitate to place his powers at the disposal of members of that house. In 1527 he had been declared a rebel by the Signoria on account of his well-known Medicean prejudices; and in 1530, deputed by Clement to punish the citizens after their revolt, he revenged himself with cruelty.

When, therefore, he returned to inhabit Florence in 1534, he did so as the creature of Alessandro de Medici. Guicciardini defended him at Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

 in 1535, before the bar of Charles V
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

, from the accusations brought against him by the Florentine exiles. According to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica:
After the murder of Duke Alessandro in 1537, Guicciardini espoused the cause of Cosimo de Medici
Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Cosimo I de' Medici was Duke of Florence from 1537 to 1574, reigning as the first Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1569.-Biography:...

, a boy addicted to field sports, and unused to the game of statecraft, hoping to effectively rule Florence this inexperienced princeling. However Cosimo dismissed him and Guicciardini retired in disgrace to his villa at Arcetri, where he spent his last years in the composition of the Storia d'Italia. He died in 1540 without male heirs. His nephew, Lodovico Guicciardini
Lodovico Guicciardini
Lodovico Guicciardini was an Italian writer and merchant from Florence, but who lived primarily in Antwerp. He was the nephew of historian and diplomat Francesco Guicciardini.-Description of the Low Countries:...

, was also an historian known for his 16th-century works on the Low Countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....


History of Italy

Guicciardini is better known as the author of the Storia d'Italia ("History of Italy"), a vast and detailed picture of his country between the years 1494 and 1532.

According to 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica,

Publication of his works

Up to the year 1857 Guicciardini's reputation depended on the History of Italy, and on a few ill-edited extracts from his aphorisms. At that date his representatives, the counts Piero and Luigi Guicciardini, opened their family archives, and committed to Giuseppe Canestrini the publication of his memoirs, in ten volumes. The documents and finished literary work thus given to the world have thrown light on Guicciardini, as author and citizen.

From the stores of valuable materials contained in those ten volumes, it is enough here to cite:
  • Ricordi politici e civili, already noticed, consisting of about 220 maxims on political, social, and religious topics;
  • Observations on Machiavelli's Discorsi, which bring into relief the views of Italy's two great theorists on statecraft in the 16th century, and show that Guicciardini regarded Machiavelli somewhat as an amiable visionary or political enthusiast;
  • Storia Fiorentina, an early work of the author, distinguished by its animation of style, brilliancy of portraiture, and liberality of judgment;
  • Dialogo del reggimento di Firenze, also in all probability an early work, in which the various forms of government suited to an Italian commonwealth are discussed with subtlety, contrasted, and illustrated from the vicissitudes of Florence up to the year 1494.

To these may be added a series of short essays, entitled Discorsi politici, composed during Guicciardini's Spanish legation.

Taken in combination with Machiavelli's treatises, the Opere inedite offer a comprehensive body of Italian political philosophy before Fra Paolo Sarpi
Paolo Sarpi
Fra Paolo Sarpi was a Venetian patriot, scholar, scientist and church reformer. His most important roles were as a canon lawyer and historian active on behalf of the Venetian Republic.- Early years :...



The following list contains alternate names used for his works in Italian and English:
  • Storie fiorentine (first "History of Florence"; 1508–1510)
  • Diario di Spagna (1512)
  • Discorso di Logrogno ("Discourse of Logrogno"; 1512)
  • Relazione di Spagna (1514)
  • Consolatoria (1527)
  • Oratio accusatoria (1527)
  • Oratio defensoria (1527)
  • Del reggimento di Firenze or Dialogo e discorsi del reggimento di Firenze ("Dialogue on Florentine Government" or "Dialogue on the Government of Florence"; 1527)
  • Considerazioni intorno ai "Discorsi" del Machiavelli sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio ("Observations on Machiavelli's Discourses"; 1528, or possibly 1530)
  • Ricordi or Ricordi politici (as the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica refers to it) or Ricordi civili e politici (the name given by Giuseppe Canestrini when he first published the book in 1857) or Ricordi politici e civili (as the Catholic Encyclopedia refers to it); in English, usually "the Ricordi" but called "Maxims and Reflections (Ricordi)" in one translation and "Counsels and Reflections" in another (1512–1530).
  • Le cose fiorentine (second "History of Florence"; 1528–1531)
  • Storia d'Italia ("History of Italy"; 1537–1540)

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.