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Liberty and Empire in Florentine Renaissance Republicanism: from Salutati to Machiavelli

  • Author(s): Woodhouse Mowl, Adam
  • Advisor(s): Stacey, Peter J
  • et al.
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This doctoral dissertation is concerned with a body of Renaissance republican thinking about empire that developed in Italy between c. 1375 and c. 1515. It shows that Renaissance humanists––intellectuals dedicated to restoring the cultural products of Greco-Roman antiquity– –drew from Roman sources a conceptual apparatus with which they described the Florentine Republic’s subjection of neighbouring peoples in terms that avoided the idea of slavery. I argue that of particular importance to this humanist ideological project was the Roman concept of the imperial protectorate: a vision of an empire formed between a patron state and its dependent, yet free, clients. Moreover, I find that Florentine humanists claimed that their republic could liberate foreign peoples from servitude, and thus export to them an accommodated version of republican freedom. After examining these earlier humanist approaches, this dissertation brings to light a radically divergent Renaissance conception of empire: Machiavelli’s theory of the imperial republic. I demonstrate that Machiavelli reappraises his humanist predecessors’ assumptions to produce a theory of empire which accepts that imperial rule almost invariably involves the domination and enslavement of foreign subjects. Altogether, this dissertation reveals that the Italian Renaissance transmits not only a range of Roman notions of empire as revived by early Florentine humanism, but also Machiavelli’s revisionist theory. This dual Renaissance legacy has implications for how we study later theorists who were heirs to the same problem of reconciling liberty and empire.

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This item is under embargo until August 13, 2020.