Italy and the European Wars: The Impact of War, 1503-1530 University of Warwick, 30 May – 1 June 2003

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Italy and the European Wars: The Impact of War, 1503-1530

University of Warwick, 30 May – 1 June 2003
The idea behind this international conference, held at Warwick University from 30 May to 1 June 2003 by the AHRB Centre for the Study of Renaissance Elites and Court Cultures (with support from the Society for Renaissance Studies, and from the Humanities Research Centre of the University of Warwick), was to reflect on the impact of invasion and war on Italy during the first decades of the sixteenth century. Our aim was to interpret this as widely as possible, and to consider military campaigns alongside political society and ideas, and culture. In some respects, this conference followed on from that held at Warwick in 1998, The World of Savonarola: Italian Elites in Crisis, and consequently did not set out to investigate evidence of spiritual crises provoked by the Italian wars, a focus of that earlier conference. We endeavoured to cover as much of Italy as possible, and were pleased to have papers that ranged from Naples to Genoa and Milan, as well as the more familiar territory of Rome, Florence and Venice. Unfortunately, we were not able to have as many papers as we would have liked which directly addressed the cultural influence of the French and Spanish soldiers and officials, and the reactions and resistance they provoked. While much more work is now being done, especially by Italian scholars, on the period of the Spanish hegemony in Italy, the earlier decades of the sixteenth century are still comparatively neglected. This was one reason why those who attended and contributed to the conference told us that they had found it useful and interesting, to the gratification of the organisers, and that it had given them a valuable opportunity to discuss common interests and problems with colleagues from different fields.

Genoa – in particular, the ritual of the entries by French monarchs into the city – was the focus of the opening paper by George Gorse (Pomona, California), and also featured in the discussion by Nicole Hochner (Jerusalem) of the evolution of French perceptions of Italy. Fabrizio Nevola (Warwick) spoke about the preparations for a triumphal entry, that of Leo X into Siena in 1515, that in the end did not take place. An unaccustomed perspective on the impact of the French in Milan was presented in the paper by Letizia Arcangeli (Milan) on the stimulus to representative government they gave, while the French military campaigns in Milan and Naples were examined by Robert Knecht in his consideration of the career of one of the major French commanders, Louis de La Trémoille. The great defeat inflicted on the Spanish-Imperial fleet off Capo d’Orso near Naples in 1528 (by the Genoese fleet commanded by Filippo Doria in the service of the French) was analysed in detail by Maurizio Airoli (Warwick and Pisa). Logistical problems were the focus of the discussion by Anthony Antonovics (Bristol) of the reasons for the French defeat in Naples in 1503-4. The broader setting of the kingdom of Naples during the first decades of Spanish rule was provided by David Abulafia (Cambridge) in his paper on Ferdinand the Catholic.

The effects and influence of the war on areas of Italy that were not conquered and occupied were also examined. John Najemy (Cornell) spoke of the responses in Florence to Machiavelli’s scheme for the militia, while Humfrey Butters (Warwick) considered the question of political structures and allegiance in the thinking of Machiavelli and Guicciardini. Christine Shaw (Warwick), in a paper on the Roman barons and Clement VII, argued that the wars had yet to alter significantly established patterns in the relations between popes and barons. The ultimate failure of the Varano to hold on to the signoria of Camerino was analysed by John Law (Swansea). Francesco Benelli (Columbia) discussed the consequences for architecture in Bologna of the affirmation of papal rule following the expulsion of the Bentivoglio by Julius II, while Eva Renzulli (Venice) described the fortification of the shrine at Loreto against attacks it was feared would be launched by the Turks.

Consideration of the wider military aspects of warfare in Italy in this period was provided by Michael Mallett (Warwick), in his analysis of the changing composition of armies and the balance between cavalry, infantry and artillery, while Simon Pepper (Liverpool) discussed architectural responses to siege warfare in the development of fortifications.

An unusual response to political crisis and war was analysed by Iain Fenlon (Cambridge) in his paper on the political compositions of Philippe Verdelot during the period of popular government in Florence in 1527-30. A less grave aspect of musical culture, the secular music played by and associated with courtesans in Rome was presented by William Prizer (California, Santa Barbara). Paul Joannides (Cambridge) provided another unaccustomed cultural perspective, in his discussion of Raphael as a painter of battles. A panoramic view of the impact of the wars on Italian universities was supplied by Jonathan Davies (Warwick). Christiana Esche-Ramshorn (Cambridge) considered some architectural developments around St Peter’s in Rome.

These wide-ranging papers gave rise to some even more wide-ranging discussions, which greatly benefited from the variety of disciplines and expertise that those attending the conference as well as the speakers brought to them.

Dr Christine Shaw, University of Warwick

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