Giacomo Giudici: SRS Study Fellowship (2015-16)

I take the chancery of the last Sforza duke of Milan, Francesco II (1522-1535) as a case-study to re-think late medieval and early modern written political culture in a more nuanced and participatory framework. I argue that scholarship should stop seeing chanceries in an overwhelmingly top-down perspective, as 'writing desks' at the service of sovereigns; indeed, documents were often constructed from below (by the sovereign's aides, or within the court, or even by outsiders), and this must change our verticistic idea of political-administrative writing, and of pre-modern authority at large.


My argument rests on three main claims. The first regards the role of chancery members. I demonstrate that their relationship with power was far more complex than simply clerical: secretaries and clerks brought their socio-political capital at court, and often had economic ties with their lord. Furthermore, by investigating the chancery's internal mechanisms, and the relation of the chancery with outsiders, I claim that the chancery represented a very open hub of communication, and a market-place with documents on sale. The third claim combines written and material culture: the physical form of chancery documents, despite its standardised authoritative appearance, not only reflects all the complexities of power highlighted above, but also allows to refine our understanding of these complexities. For further information, please refer to