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How to Read Venetian Relazioni 

Filippo De Vivo

Filippo De Vivo, « How to Read Venetian Relazioni », Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, Vol. 34 No. 1-2 (2011) : Special issue : Things Not Easily Believed : Introducing the Early Modern Relation.

Extrait de l’article

Ever since the thirteenth century, Venetian ambassadors coming home at the end of their postings were required to provide end-of-mission reports, or relazioni. Length and details varied, but most covered three aspects : the country where they had served, that country’s government (mostly a description of the court and sovereign), and that government’s attitudes towards other states, including Venice itself. Ambassadors were great observers of high politics, bent on scrutinizing the personality of ministers in order to pick up traits that might guide present and future negotiations. But they also provided wider information about geography, military and economic strength, and customs, including religious rites. By the sixteenth century, other European ambassadors, especially papal nuncios, also submitted reports, but Venice stood out for two reasons. First, it had a larger number of permanent representations than any other European state : Ferrara, Florence, Mantua, Milan, Naples, Rome, Savoy, Urbino and, outside Italy, the Empire, Constantinople, France, England (with a gap in 1558–1603), and Spain (the United Provinces and Russia were added later, respectively in 1610 and 1783). Venice also sent occasional missions to Egypt, Persia, Poland, and the Swiss Cantons, and held consular representations in Sicily and Syria. Furthermore, to a greater extent than anywhere else, Venetian ambassadors codified the rules of relazioni as a genre, the timing for their presentation, and the manner of their preservation. Other Venetian officials, including mainland and overseas governors as well as special envoys, also filed reports on their missions, and many of this paper’s findings apply to them too.

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