Leviathan for Sale: The Market for City-States in Renaissance Italy
Leviathan for Sale examines for the first time the market for city-states: the practice of late medieval/Renaissance Italian cities buying and selling neighboring towns and castles within Italy and across the Mediterranean. Often remembered as a time of endemic war, the centuries from 1300-1500 also witnessed a flourishing trade in land and people. None bought city-states more aggressively than Florence and Venice, whose merchants and politicians spent millions of florins, ducats, and dirhams buying nearby communities. Drawing upon original financial data from sixteen Florentine and Venetian acquisitions alongside diaries, written and visual artistic production, and civic rituals, Leviathan for Sale exposes how the politics, economics, and culture of the Renaissance owed as much to the lands Italian cities bought as it did the wars they fought.
To make this argument, Leviathan for Sale is divided into two sections of three chapters each. Part I examines the economics of the market for city-states, uncovering a vast, trans-urban network of accessors, lenders, and judges who supported the trade in city-states. After observing the flow of capital in this market, Part II details how Florentines and Venetians wrestled with the questionable morality of buying communities of merchants not unlike themselves. Adopting the point of view of the three parties to any city-state sale – buyer, seller, and sold – it explores how contemporaries copied the ethics of the Renaissance marketplace to transform Florence and Venice into anthropomorphized businessmen, city-state sellers into avaricious tyrants, and subject cities into mere merchandise.
By examining how accessors appraised cities’ value, negotiators drove hard bargains, jurists regulated bills of sale, and chancellors exchanged money, this study shows how the market for city-states made Renaissance Italians confront new ideas about value, wealth, territory, community, commerce, imperialism, and national identity.