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Laboratoire italien. Politique et société, n°23/2019

L'office du silence : les devoirs du secrétaire (XVe-XVIe siècle)

Edited by Giorgio Bottini, Fiona Lejosne

Laboratoire italien

The office of silence: the secretary's duties (15th-16th century)

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the rising figure of the secretary filled in needs that appeared more crucial than ever in the Italian peninsula. Whilst struggling with an increasing instability, Italian political entities were compelled to expand the rate of their institutional and diplomatic activities. Through examples of secretaries serving the Republics of Florence, Sienna, and Venice, the Popes, and the Reign of Naples, this collection of essays intends shedding new light on the various aspects of this function in the very moment of its historical rise. The secretary was a central actor of Renaissance Italy but, at the same time, formally he only held the second part. He acted as a scribe, a counsellor, or an emissary, serving public chanceries or private individuals, temporal princes or clergymen, free Republics or feudal seigniories. Some secretaries would undertake all of these functions jointly (such as Machiavelli, "the secretary" par excellence) whereas others would assume them in turns, at different moments of their career. Despite this role being so new, there is a certain continuity between this rising political figure and the classical heritage: using classical sources provided secretaries with support and guidance for action, or acted as a cornerstone for the progressive theorisation of their office.