Desire Cappa: SRS Study Fellowship (2017-18)


The Role of Information in the Shaping of Power. Networks, Correspondence and Informers of a Ducal Chancellor in Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici’s Florence.


My project will investigate ‘the mechanics of political communication’ in Florence between 1537 and 1545, with reference to the exchange of information between Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici and his bureaucrats. My aim is to contribute to the history of Florence’s political system by offering my interpretation of how communication, the binding element between government and administration, worked.


The correspondence of one of the most notable ducal bureaucrats, Pierfrancesco Riccio – a plenipotentiary secretary in the service of the Medici duke – will provide an excellent case study to investigate how information was managed and how it helped shape power. With his incessant letter writing, Riccio controlled Medici propaganda and was at the centre of a network of informers and spies. He also acted as an important link in the chain of command starting from the ducal court and involving the chancellery, where decisions were made at a political and administrative level, and many peripheral executive outposts that enacted on the territory the decisions taken.

My study adds a new perspective to existing scholarship in that it focuses on political communication within the ducal government of Florence and tries to answer some pressing questions. How did the correspondence network work? To what extent did information shape power? What were the means and the people involved in this process? What or who and how trustworthy were the sources of information?