Venetian ambassadors 1454-94 : an Italian elite
This study is concerned with filling the gap that exists in our understanding of Venetian diplomacy. Historical works on Renaissance diplomacy have tended to be general, and the experience of Venice in the fifteenth century has been largely overlooked (partly because of the lack of extant diplomatic material). Yet this period is of key importance in the history of diplomacy; it was during the mid-fifteenth century that Italian states first used resident ambassadors, something which became accepted practice in sixteenth century Europe. My approach has been to carry out a prosopographical analysis of every patrician who was appointed by Venice as an ambassador between 1454 and 1494. This has allowed investigation into their economic standing, family connections, intellectual interests, and political importance. Such a socio-political approach not only tells us much about diplomatic practices, but also casts light on the development of elite groups in Venice. The first chapter of the study is introductory, explaining the chronological context of the study and outlining the debate over residency and the use of prosopography. Chapter two discusses elites, describes the personnel who manned Venetian missions, and explains the pattern of Venetian representation. Chapter three compares the theory and the reality of Venetian diplomatic practices. Chapters four and five focus more closely on the prosopography and consider the importance of family connections for ambassadors, their humanist interests, their political standing. The final chapter looks at the development of resident and permanent diplomacy in Venice. I argue that Venetian ambassadors were drawn from the highest echelons of Venetian society and that their elevated status affected the nature of Venetian diplomacy. The type of men appointed by the Republic meant that Venice lagged behind many of its neighbours (especially the Princely states) in the use of resident ambassadors. This was primarily due to the nature of the Republic itself; Venice did not encourage long absences abroad or diplomatic specialisation. The Venetian experience shows that the speed at which Italian states responded to changes in diplomacy varied considerably and was closely related to their own cultural and political values.