contributor.author: Allison Williams Lewin

title.none: Ricciardelli, The Politics of Exclusion (Allison Williams Lewin)

identifier.other: baj9928.0806.023 08.06.23

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Allison Williams Lewin, St. Joseph's University, lewin@sju.edu

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2008

identifier.citation: Ricciardelli, Fabrizio. The Politics of Exclusion in Early Renaissance Florence. Late Medieval and Early Modern Studies, v. 12. Turnhout: Brepols, 2007. Pp. xiv, 294. $88.50 978-2-503-52389-7. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 08.06.23

Ricciardelli, Fabrizio. The Politics of Exclusion in Early Renaissance Florence. Late Medieval and Early Modern Studies, v. 12. Turnhout: Brepols, 2007. Pp. xiv, 294. $88.50 978-2-503-52389-7. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Allison Williams Lewin
St. Joseph's University
lewin@sju.edu

The Politics of Exclusion presents an intriguing yet idiosyncratic retelling of the formative centuries of the Florentine republic. While "Political exclusion in Florence has never been made the object of systematic historical research" (2), several aspects of it run through Florentine history. Ricciardelli argues that over time, and against the background of territorial expansion and consolidation of the regional state and of its mechanisms, exclusion became more clearly articulated and orderly, reifying the ever- partisan nature of Florentine politics as integral to governance itself.

One problem that arises immediately in this reframing of political events, particularly crises, is that is treats only one aspect of political exclusion, while in fact several existed. One is obvious but never stated; membership in a guild was from 1282 on a prerequisite for political participation. Next are the legitimate, or legitimated, channels that regularly barred active citizens from participation for the duration of the republic. Curiously, only in passing does he refer to one such bar, namely debts owed to the commune (recorded in the libro del specchio); even more curiously, the divieto, often a bone of contention between elites and non-elites because it worked against the large extended families, does not surface at all. [1] Most of the author's focus is on punitive exclusion aimed at those competing with or conspiring against the reggimento; this is even in itself a worthwhile subject of study, if handled with precision and depth. From the outset, however, the overall dismissal of the specchio and divieto as tools of political manipulation, leads to an unfounded assertion that the exclusion from the civic community "entailed the cancellation of political and property rights," and thus curtailed individual freedom of action (3). It might result in the suspension of political rights, did not affect property rights, and in these two cases was reversible, either by payment of the debt or with time.

Proceeding diachronically (not a particularly good strategy, as it leads to a good deal of repetition later), Ricciardelli begins with "The Legal Forms of Exclusion." When factions clashed, the losers faced exclusion from political participation and, in most cases, confiscation or destruction of civic property as well. A rural estate thus provided not only fresh produce to those living in the city, but a safe haven as well. A necessary excursus into legal language and instruments attempts to untangle exile, confinement and the ban but does not succeed in its objective. The ban, a heavy fine for men of the popolo and the death penalty for magnates, was designed to exclude the offender from civil and political society, but, Ricciardelli argues, in practice often led to self-imposed exile as the offender chose to escape civic jurisdiction. "To speak of exile in the early Renaissance period is, therefore, somewhat strained, since it would be more appropriate to talk of varying forms of exclusion that led to 'self-exile'..." Confinement, frequently confused with the ban by chroniclers, could require residence in "the city, the contado, or the distretto, but it could equally involve the obligation to stay away from these three zones" (23). [2] Yet did not the obligation to be absent from the city, contado, and distretto means that one was banished or exiled from those areas? It is difficult to think of a better definition for exile that that; the Oxford English Dictionary's first definition of exile is "Enforced removal from one's native land according to an edict or sentence; penal expatriation or banishment; the state or condition of being penally banished; enforced residence in some foreign land." Thus exile, like confinement, can mean either being sent to a (usually specific) place, or being barred from residing in a specific place.

Ricciardelli attempts to distinguish between two other categories, the regular ban and the ban pro maleficio. He is correct in stating that the first did not inherently entail banishment. If, however, the person under the ban refused to obey its strictures, more reasonable for those who owed money than those facing capital punishment, they became contumacious, which did in fact deny a person of all legal protections and would make skipping town a very sensible choice (53-54). The second automatically stripped the condemned of all rights, could extend to his family, and allowed him to be attacked by anyone with impunity (which, again, would lead the intelligent person to get out, fast). [3] At a certain point it seems like quibbling to say escaping the city to avoid death is "voluntary self-exile"; while the legal sentence may not use the word "exile," for all intents and purposes it meant leaving the city in fear of one's life--not just exercising one's options voluntarily.

Any citizen subject to any of these punishments could become a menace to the city if he joined with other fuorusciti and conspired either with family and friends still within the city or with anti- Florentine communes or signori. To minimize this threat, an office was created in 1302 to sell the confiscation of goods of political dissidents, and in 1322 yet another was appointed with responsibility to capture rebels (29-30). Another way to lessen the risk of facing a coalition of banned citizens appeared in the form of official pardons, granted on the most solemn days of the year or at moments of political crisis or significance (50).

The 1293 Ordinances of Justice discriminated against magnates; the fourteenth-century Parte Guelfa used its power of ammonizione against all those deemed Ghibellines (usually labeled heretics as well); [4] fraudulent or bankrupt merchants lost political rights in the 1322-1325 statutes of the Capitano del popolo, as did of course all those found guilty of non-political crimes. By 1368, a decree ordered a systematic and constantly updated list of all those guilty of political offenses, which included those designated as contumacious, regardless of the nature of their original crime (56). Thus more and more groups came to face various combinations of civic and ecclesiastical exclusion, loss of property, and even death. This would be an interesting thread to follow, especially with some detailed statistical and prosopographical grounding; Ricciardelli does not do so, except in limited fashion regarding ammonizione--a pity, given how much of his evidence points towards that investigation.

He does emphasize, rightly, that the process of exclusion (I will qualify that as "punitive exclusion") became increasingly politicized, as opposed to strictly judicial. The fourteenth century saw the creation of two special magistracies, the Otto di guardia and the Dieci di balia, designed to control the political behavior of inhabitants of the city and territory, gradually replacing the old judicial tribunals (37). After 1434 Cosimo de' Medici began to assign political crimes and all criminal jurisdiction to special magistracies, the Otto and the Conservatori delle leggi, leaving only civil jurisdiction to the podestà and Giudice degli appelli (38). The city-state itself "began to be represented as an active party in the juridical process through its magistrates," and proceedings ex officio and with torture became the norm (48). Near the end of the book, in chapter 5, Ricciardelli is correct in emphasizing the continuity of mechanisms that the Medici used to obtain and retain power; "the actors changed but not the sets" (247).

Chapter Two, "An Instrument of Political Resolution," opens with scenes of the violence that characterized Dante's Florence. Grounded in the pacts of solidarity and the towers and fortresses that dominated the skyline, factional struggle erupted with depressing regularity in Florence as well as in many other central and northern cities. As Ricciardelli sketches in the Amidei-Buondelmonte feud and conflicts between Guelfs and Ghibellines, he states that judges could impose bans, "and to dictate a political ban meant, above all in political conflicts, to impose exile" (65)--a rather surprising statement in light of the preceding chapter's definitions, and further confused by the characterization of the "expulsion of 1248" as being in reality "a voluntary exodus..." (68).

The waters are further muddied by the statement that in 1258 numerous families of the Ghibelline faction "were forced into exile. The penalty of ban did not involve only those of distinguished Ghibelline pedigree..."; here Ricciardelli seems to use the terms exile and ban interchangeably. Certainly by 1267-68 the losers either confined to, or away from, the city, contado or distretto; most severely, were "those who were classed as rebels and Ghibellines [who] had to be sent out of the city by his majesty Charles of Anjou and by the commune"--though in the next paragraph this same group "did not wait to be ordered out of the city by the new regimes before abandoning it, choosing instead the option of voluntary exile..." (78), followed by a reference to "the fate of those who suffered exile" (80). As above, if a person knows he will be exiled, is he really acting voluntarily by leaving before sentence is formally pronounced? I doubt that would feel like an act of volition and wish that after the lengthy dissections of chapter one this point were clearer and its significance articulated. And somehow, "Within a few years [after the peace of Cardinal Latino], in fact, 'wealth'-- grassezza, as Villani wrote--'produced pride and corruption' and produced a new political scene in which once again it would be common to force political opponents into exile" (89)--a scenario limited only to certain types of confinement, or as a secondary punishment, according to chapter one. Also confusing in terminology is the statement that "while the members of the Black Party who were subjected to ban were forced to accept the final sentence of exile, Whites who were subject to ban had the chance to come back to the city after a few weeks because of their influence in government" (98). Ricciardelli states in his conclusion that he "never came across the term exile" in any primary sources (255), yet he himself clearly sees it imposed de facto and uses the word quite frequently, though arguing it was not a direct but a consequential punishment. Whatever the legal terminology, the effect was the same.

Back to the ban--by the time he discusses the effects of the Ordinances of Justice on the magnates, "the ban" has become explicitly "the power of banishment," which he opposes to "mass exclusion" (92)-- a presentation exactly the reverse of the reality. Magnates were generally barred from political participation, but generally did not face banishment if they posted the bond required. Adding to the confusion, though Ricciardelli states that "legal revenge took the place of armed violence" when the Blacks, aided by Charles de Valois, defeated the Whites in 1301, nonetheless "there was the rite of sacking the defeated faction's houses" and that "[A]bove and beyond their employment of armed violence in the streets, the victors invoked the power of law..." (100) From his own presentation it seems that legal revenge certainly did not displace armed violence but furthered it once physical revenge had been exhausted.

Disturbingly, he seems willing to bend the evidence in at least one instance, translating a passage from Giovanni Villani: "I caporali de' Guelfi..., sanz'altro commiato o cacciamento, colle famiglie piagnendo uscirono di Firenze..." as "The heads of the Guelfs..., without being subjected to ban or confinement, went forth weeping from Florence with their families..." (73, especially n. 51). Commiato means s.m. 1. (preso) leave; (dato) dismissal; discharge: dar-, to give permission to leave; prendere--da qlcu., to take one's leave of s.o.; 2. (saluto) leave taking; parting; 3. (poesia) envoy, envoi; closing stanza (Garzanti CD-ROM unabridged). And cacciamento means being chased, did refer to being chased from the city, but with no connotation of confinement. For someone who seems to be basing his case on the appearance, usage, and non- appearance of several key terms, Ricciardelli does not seem to use his words with the precision his argument demands.

Nor is Ricciardelli clear in his chronology conceptually, though individual events are tied to specific years with pleasing regularity. In the conclusion, he states that "at the height of the communal age the prevailing juridical procedure for the prosecution of political enemies was the ban," while "[D]uring the republican period, in fact, the exclusion of adversaries was always effected via sentences of confinement..." (254). When exactly are these two eras? In his introduction he stated that he aimed to demonstrate "how the terms of political conflict in the years between the early communal age and the republican age underwent changes in form rather then (sic) in substance" (4). Are commune and republic different terms for the same entity, different in composition? I suspect he is distinguishing between the government before and after the founding of the guild republic, but am not sure.

Chapter Three, optimistically entitled "Toward the Overcoming of Violence?" presents a Florence in which "armed factional struggle was gradually replaced by mediation..." (107). Here Ricciardelli's thesis seems to emerge more clearly, as he states that the entry of the popolo into the offices of government "introduced a new political culture no longer based on the practice of mass exclusion but rather on the more targeted use of exile [his word] as a political instrument" (110). The ins and outs of the struggle between Black and White Guelfs, and then the further division among the victorious Blacks, makes the second point more than the first, particularly after 1306 when "the commune was disposed to annul the sentences that had been passed on many branches of the Ubaldini family so as to isolate its most implacable members" (122). But while these remaining intransigents were "systematically demonized and were identified with common bandits...with assassins, extortionist, thieves, raiders, kidnappers for ransom," it is difficult to see how these latter types qualify as "those who, for political purposes, were willing to do anything" (122). Extortionists, thieves, raiders, and kidnappers for ransom would seem at first glance to be driven far more by greed and the desire for gain than by political motives.

Ricciardelli picks up the main thread of his argument, however, in examining the pardons extended by the Council of the One Hundred in October 1307 with which, "on the one hand, by dispensing so many exonerations, the commune was able to weaken its external enemies, and on the other, it brought about a welcome and much needed broadening of the base of its political support" (128). Much of this chapter is in fact a retelling of factional conflict, in which winning factions had routinely exiled members of the opposition--in other words, fairly well-known dynamics. The less explored side of his argument, namely the use of political exclusion apart from exile, receives scant attention.

"Between Power Games and Conspiracies" shifts persecutions from the ban, the penal sentence inflicted by a judge of the city republic, to ammonizione, or "admonition" pronounced by the Guelf Party against supposed Ghibellines. Against the backdrop of the Ricci- Albizzi rivalry, Ricciardelli surprisingly does not focus on--the politics of exclusion, except indirectly, by pointing to Matteo Villani's argument that the division arose from the attempts of both to gain dominance in the Guelf Party (171). Some hard-core analysis of those admonished, examining neighborhood, membership in a major or minor guild, qualification as an elite or non-elite member of that guild, all would add to rather than reiterate the extent to which exclusion succeeded in alienating citizens from government. Except the exclusion of the Ricci themselves from public office in 1363 (173), Ricciardelli gives no sense of how large the excluded "Ricci faction," (so relabeled on 174) was, nor a precise analysis of its composition. Matteo Villani's chronicle would carry the story forward only until his death in 1363; thus it would be up to Ricciardelli to explain the Ricci's quick reintegration into the regime, and their continuing bids for dominance of the Guelf Party. He fails to do so, which means that the non-specialist would be left with the impression that the Ricci family/faction was permanently barred from office, and in addition would have no clue that the Ricci infuriated many of their allies by making peace with and adopting the behaviors and attitudes of their archrivals, the Albizzi. So close were their positions that in 1373 both families were banned from communal office for ten years. [5]

Chapter four then turns to those acting from the outside. As fuoruscitismo, or the problem of exiles, became more and more pressing, the Florentine government focused increasingly on defense of castles, fortresses, and communication and commercial routes. [6] Ricciardelli does not pursue the topic, however, and quickly turns to the events of 1378.

Here too Ricciardelli could argue more forcefully that the Ciompi "rebellion...was, therefore, in part the product of political exclusion" (182). There is no denying that those admonished by the Guelf Party played a significant role in this confrontation. Some brief mention of the War of the Eight Saints and the complex dynamics preceding and during that partisan and ideologically driven struggle would be helpful--and his statement that "internal conflicts faded as the Florentine government dedicated its energies to the war against the papacy" [185] is simply and stunningly wrong. [7] Imprecision in language also impedes his analysis of the Ciompi revolution. Most of those precipitating the events of summer 1378 were not exactly "these lower strata of the popolo [entering] into the struggle between the Guelf Party and moderate members of the popolo grasso" (181), but rather those of the working class, who were not part of the popolo, politically speaking, because they lacked membership in a guild (following the author's own definition and description on 69- 70). The disenfranchised both above and below, magnates and workers, had different agendas in militating for change, but the cumulative effect of their actions was to create in many Florentine citizens a sense of crisis.

As with the other revelations regarding conspiracy, accusations of harboring or being related to rebels, sentences that forced accused to flee, leading to their receiving the death sentence in absentia--all that emerges clearly is that when people were suspected of conspiring against the state, or had offended those who were, in fact, the state, judges were quite willing to throw the book at them. Legal niceties, distinctions of crime and sentence, even of jurisdiction went by the by, at least in Ricciardelli's recounting of events. What emerges, more by default than directly, is the sense of a city under siege, one constantly, and realistically, on the alert for enemies within and without. Ricciardelli ends by conflating two ideas, one of political exclusion, the other of actual physical absence, by stating that "death sentences...led to the self-exclusion of the condemned" (194). True, but not at all the same as political exclusion as exemplified in the admonitions of the Guelf Party. And does it really make sense that the Otto di guardia would be created in December 1378, "following" the conspiracy planned in December 1379? (195) Ricciardelli is correct in stating that "the criteria of exclusion were not univocal," but less accurate in stating that "anyone, no matter whether Ghibelline or Guelf, who opposed popular and Guelf values and the interests of those citizens of which they were the expression could be persecuted" (198). After 1267 there were no Ghibellines in Florence, though the term persisted as a sort of shorthand for those who might oppose the regime or certain factions; and "popular" and "Guelf" do not necessarily occur in tandem as characteristics of the regimes of 1343-1382. [8]

Chapter Five, "The Legitimization of Power," addresses both the continuing factionalism of Florentine politics characterized by the successive preeminence of the Alberti, Albizzi, and Medici, and Florence's growth into a regional power. The decades of war against Milan, Naples, Milan again, and Lucca intensified the danger the fuorusciti posed and heightened the need for internal cohesion and security. One of the policies all three coalitions pursued, Ricciardelli claims, was one of reconciliation, in recognition that expelling opponents only exacerbated tensions and hostilities without the city and beyond (204).

This conclusion is highly debatable, however, as is the claim that "modern historians seem to agree that there was an alliance at this time between the old families and the Ciompi to weaken the regime of the wealthy merchants and the values it represented," when the only two citations are to Brucker (206). More accurately, a self-appointed group of forty-three spokesmen from the "families" and "grandi" attempted to force such an alliance, but was largely thwarted by legislative councils; the aim of the elites who increasingly directed the regime was to discredit the guilds by "associating guilds with subversion and working-class rebellion." [9] Ricciardelli provides the example of the conspiracy of 1383, led by important exiles who hoped to persuade Florentine citizens to join with them, but then has to admit that the attempt "failed because citizens did not participate in the affair, despite the conspirators' attempts to involve the lowest ranks of the working class and to win supporters for their cause by calling for the revival of the guilds that had been suppressed" (212). Clearly the participants in events of post-1382 were unaware of the alliance that modern historians seem to agree on, supra.

In fact as the work proceeds the uncomfortable sense that Ricciardelli is not following his own argument surfaces. It is also difficult to make sense of the claim on p. 204 that reconciliation marked the trend of the post-1382 regimes after reading of the systematic persecution, expulsion, and confinement of opponents, which Ricciardelli presents as "systematic and ruthless" from 1393 on (220). Further expulsions in 1396 "demonstrates that these expulsions were the consequences of a specific political strategy aimed at removing all those who were opposing the party led by the Albizzi from the city" (222). While the decision to confine, not condemn to death, might aim to limit hostilities, it failed spectacularly "because attempts at subversion did not diminish in frequency..." (ibid.). With Giangaleazzo looming in the background, "the Florentine government embarked upon a dual policy of rehabilitation and of repression," by canceling sentences of confinement if the accused swore an oath of loyalty and enrolled in John Hawkwood's army (225). At the same time, however, "the general policy of repression was violent..." (227). Without quite substantiating his argument, Ricciardelli seems to be suggesting that punishments landed most heavily on the Alberti, Ricci, Medici, and Strozzi, "the most important enemies of the Albizzi regime..." (226), though general fear of betrayal led to swift and harsh punishments all around (228-232). So how does Ricciardelli's presentation of the law contra scandalosos of 1429, which allowed for those thought to be dangerous to be ammoniti for one year, confined only in worst cases (236-237), fit with this statement?

After Maso degli Albizzi's death, the polarization of the city around the Albizzi/Uzzano faction on the one hand, and the Medici on the other, grew more and more charged as the financial pressures of decades of war mounted. Here too it is difficult to see any trace of a policy of reconciliation, during the confinement either of Cosimo de' Medici and his cohort or of the 109 individuals confined after his reentry into the city in November 1434, both of which Ricciardelli presents as a policy "to expel and destroy their opponents...with political sentences..., which passed directly from the executive directly to the organs in charge of the proscription" (241). Only by viewing confinement as conciliatory is such a reading possible. A point worth emphasizing in arguing for continuity between pre-1434 and after is that the Otto di guardia, not the judiciary, issued the sentences. As a political magistracy, however, it operated to punish, not to reconcile.

The conclusion recaps the punitive types of political exclusion, emphasizes the "political bipolarity" of Florentine society, and presents exclusion as "an 'ordering element' deeply rooted in the social and political dynamics of the city and its territory... Used in various ways according to periods and political situations" (252, 253). Moreover, the decades of war from the late fourteenth through the mid-fifteenth century saw so many conspiracies involving fuorusciti and foreign signori that the rulers of Florence had "to consider political questions in a regional perspective" (254).

For at least the thirteenth century, it seems neither Ricciardelli nor his sources have a clear picture of exactly what the ban was or of its relation to expulsion and exile. It is not clear who the intended audience is; for example, he defines popolo on pp. 69-70, but gives no sense of historical development of fundamentals like Capitano del popolo, even in this context (though the term is included in a brief glossary at the end of the book). The glossary would indicate he is aiming for a broader audience than Florentine historians, but the content argues otherwise. Different readers may find different points of interest in The Politics of Exclusion; the topic is certainly intriguing. Perhaps Ricciardelli can present a more cogent and precise examination of it in future publications.

-------- Notes. 1. John M. Najemy, Corporatism and Consensus in Florentine Electoral Politics, 1280-1400 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982). Lewin, Negotiating Survival: Florence and the Papacy during the Great Schism 1378-1417 (NJ: AUP, Fairleigh Dickinson Press, 2003), chapter 2.

2. To be confinato meant being sent to the confini, usually a specific place, but did not necessarily forbid leaving Florentine territory.

3. I am deeply indebted to Robert Fredona especially, and John Najemy and Julius Kirshner as well, for clarifying these fine legal points to me. The authoritative treatise on the subjects is the 1423 "De bannitis" of Nello da San Gimignano, published in volume 11 of the Tractatus universi iuris.

4. Though, curiously, when Ricciardelli returns to this conflation in chapter two, he does not cite Carol Lansing's Power 8 Purity: Cathar Heresy in Medieval Italy (Oxford University Press, 2001).

5. The Ricci themselves quickly changed their tune and, like the Albizzi, sought papal favor and gained a prominent voice in the Guelf Party; Gene Brucker, Florentine Politics and Society 1343-1378 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962), 260-264.

6. It is curious that, given its importance in Florentine politics and in this chapter particularly, neither of the classic works on this topic--Christine Shaw's The Politics of Exile in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000) and Randolph Starn's Contrary Commonwealth: The Theme of Exile in Medieval and Renaissance Italy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982)--appears in a single footnote (one brief mention of Starn occurs in chapter 5).

7. Brucker, Florentine Politics, chapter 7; Lewin, Negotiating Survival: Florence and the Papacy during the Great Schism 1378-1417 (NJ: AUP, Fairleigh Dickinson Press, 2003), chapter 2.

8. The 1340s particularly revealed great opposition and hostility between the Guelf Party and the broader guild-based regime; Brucker, Florentine Politics, 101-104 and ff.; Lewin, Negotiating Survival, 20-21.

9. John Najemy, A History of Florence 1200-1575 (Blackwell Publishing: Malden MA and Oxford, 2006) 174-176. Though Ricciardelli may not have had access to this book before the publication of his own, the sources Najemy cites for this section are readily available.