This examination of opposition tries to understand the political history of an
Italian city -state in a new way. The aim of this study is to gain a better understanding
of the nature of political conflict in Florence, and of the reasons for the instability of
Florentine political life in the early sixteenth century. The concern is with plots, the
violent overthrow of governments, and those condemned for speaking against the
regime, rather than with simply critical opinion. These episodes of conflict between
regimes and their opponents are the events from which the historian can learn most,
both about the reasons for political conflict and its outcome, and about the strengths
and weaknesses of both regimes and their opponents.
Some of this opposition, such as the plot of February 1527, and those
condemned for outspokenness against the regime throughout the period, is
completely unknown to modern historians, and none has been examined in depth.
This study examines opposition systematically for the first time, from a number of
perspectives that have previously been neglected. It is based on extensive research in
the Florentine archives, which permit us to give a full account, presented in the
Appendices, of the political and social backgrounds of more than two hundred
individuals involved in plots and other acts against the regime.
There are two key aspects of opposition which concern Part One of this study:
the role of foreign support in plots and the way in which conspiracy was affected by
the advent of the Italian Wars in 1494; and how far conspiracy was characterized by
the desire to introduce an aristocratic government to Florence or to re- establish the
past regime. Part Two examines contemporary definitions and conceptions of
political offences; the punishment of political crime; common attitudes towards plots
and the way in which conspirators sought to explain and justify their deeds.
The political and social backgrounds of opponents are examined in Part
Three. The following questions are considered: how far was conspiracy the work of
former supporters of the regime or long- standing opponents who had always sought
its overthrow, of those from inside or outside the ruling circles of government, of
those in power or those they had thrown out of it; what was the relationship between
plots and the way in which regimes treated their opponents and supporters; and what
were the respective roles of wealth, youth and nobility in plots? By considering
opposition from these perspectives, this study recovers a significant part of the
political history of Florence, and forces a re- evaluation both of the nature of political
conflict in the city after 1494, and of the reasons for the instability of Florentine
political life in the early sixteenth century.