Deciphering the Diplomatic Archives of Fifteenth-Century Italy


History and Philosophy

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This article examines the repercussions of the explosion of paper documents generated by new developments in diplomatic practice in Italian city-states between 1450 and 1500. With the proliferation of resident ambassadors whose daily duties centered around writing and receiving letters and other documents, a flood of written material was produced. The management and archiving of all this material triggered the formation of new institutions, of new methods of working, and of new personnel. Though the results of the efforts at archiving were often fitful and incomplete, the governments of the Italian peninsula henceforth sought to collect, control and preserve diplomatic documents so that they could be referenced in the future.