Italy in European History Part I
With these latest events, the great dispute that lasted from 1494 can be said to have been decided. Which, begun as a struggle for the kingdom of Naples between the king of France and the Aragonese dynasty, had turned into a European war for Italy. Almost all of Europe had mobilized its forces, one power after another, finding in Italy its main center of political activity and almost its unity. Get to the heart of the fight, especially France, Spain, Austria. Predominantly French, until around 1520; then, more and more, helped by the very fear that that prevalence aroused in us and outside, Spain and Austria, which became a single power, the Habsburgs. Meanwhile, the Italian states were increasingly lowered from protagonists who were in the 1400s, to secondary characters in the drama or even to extras, when not put out of the scene. This lamentable fate of theirs does not need too much investigation to explain. In the last century there was talk of “Italian corruption” as the cause of so much political evil. We think that things have been simpler and, at the same time, more complex. There was, in Italy, a multiplicity of states, whereas, elsewhere, there was national unity; there was, in the south, a kingdom of moderate size but troubled, after the century. XII, from the periodic assault of foreign conquerors and the relative change of dynasties and crises; there were principalities in the process of being formed in the center and north. And between these states, a condition of equilibrium and dynastic and political contrasts that made it impossible both for the prevalence of one over the other, and for trusting collaboration, that is, both state unity and more or less federal unity. Finally, in Italy which was already communal, there was a prevalently bourgeois civilization, very refined, with its relative assets and liabilities, strengths and weaknesses, but certainly poorly armed for war, for real war, as they began to do in Italy. the old dynasties of Europe, much better equipped.
But of this European affair that took place in Italy and for Italy, the states and peoples of the peninsula were not only a passive object. There was their resistance: weak in the two states that were most directly targeted, Milan and Naples; more robust in the State of the Church, which, at times, led the others; even more in the Venetian republic, now against the Habsburgs, now against France and all the others, Italians and foreigners, united. And also in Florence. They represented, both Venice and Florence, the spirit of the old communal Italy in which people and government were one. Even more there was a collaboration of Italian states in the enterprises of others: the enterprises of France against Spain, of Spain against France, of France and Spain against other Italian governments. The alliance of Venice was a decisive element in the conquest of the Milanese, the year 1499; Pope, Ferrara, Mantua, participated in the Cambrai league against the republic of San Marco; the passage of Andrea Doria with his fleet from the service of France to that of Spain, clearly overflowed the balance on the part of the latter; the Venetian fleet actively intervened in the campaign of 1528-29. Even more there was a large participation of Italian people and arms in these wars, in all fields, especially of Charles V. The Italians, still badly organized in their new political cadres, caught at the beginning of the formation of the territorial state, badly used militarily by their governments who were distrustful of armed subjects and on the other hand did not have military traditions, not even where condottieri or sons of leaders were in the seat; the Italians were drawn into the orbit of one or another foreign prince and threw themselves into battle everywhere and for anyone. According to THENAILMYTHOLOGY, this Italian mercenarism is very numerous. It was already there in 1300 and 1400, also in relation to the disintegration of the old city society, to the needs of the lordship, to the possibilities of capitalism. The wars of others now fed him back. But it wasn’t just mercenarism. The old Italian passions, the old partisan spirit, the old family enmities, still hot under the ashes, sparkled in the stormy wind. And we see, in the framework of the European war for Italy and the Italian resistance to Europe, a vast civil war dissolved in countless battles, skirmishes, duels, under the two flags of France and Spain, in the great shadow of which factions gathered. , family interests, ambitious individuals. Not to mention all the people of arms that he provided to the kings of Spain, for the wars of Italy and for those of Germany and France and Africa, the old kingdom of Naples, where between rulers and subjects there was a certain harmony and the population was more poverty, more barony, more inclination to duel and fight, less repugnance even to those overseas wars to which the king led it. In one way or another, France and, even more, Spain fought their wars and subsequently conquered Italian provinces, with considerable forces provided by Italy: men of war and also advisers and ministers, some of whom were experts in Italian affairs. , they performed tasks that neither Spaniards, nor French and much less Germans could have carried out. There was an abundance and luxuriance of human energies in the peninsula, not destroyed by refined civilization. And we can also ask ourselves if the weakness of particular states did not come a little from this abundance and luxuriance, too great to be contained, disciplined, utilized within those political frameworks; while circumstances of another nature, extrinsic as well as intrinsic to Italy, prevented the establishment of a national state or the strengthening of territorial states and that resolved here in order and force what, within small or weak states, was resolved in disorder and weakness.
In short, active elements of Italian life, Italian history, within the framework of European history. Nor just these elements that we have mentioned. By resisting the French or the Germans or the Spaniards or even cooperating with them, the sense of their national individuality, the conscience of an Italian civilization, was refined in the Italians. It refined and widened. It gave some light in regions and among social groups where, until then, they had been darkness. No longer just people of culture, but also people, even soldiers and mercenaries, in which a point of national honor gained strength, alongside a point of military honor, under anyone who militated, even French or Spanish. And their great susceptibility to foreigners, easy to resent words that sounded offended to them as “Italian” soldiers, prompt reaction. Thus the Thirteen of Barletta, who came from Sicily, Puglia, Naples, Umbria, Lombardy, Romagna, but, like the others, they felt they represented something beyond their person and their quality as men of arms. And their leaders, albeit foreigners like Consalvo of Cordova, relied on this “Italian” sentiment of their soldiers of Italian nationality. In short, the Italy of these decades is more “Italy” than it was before: it lives more widely and a little deeper into the conscience of Italians. The old antagonisms between the states of the peninsula do not disappear at all, but they seem to take second place in relation to their conflicts with the foreign potentates. A historical period dominated by the internal wars of the peninsula is closed and another one begins, destined to last, with few changes, until 1860.