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DIVISION OF POWER AVANT LA LETTRE: DONATO GIANNOTTI (1534)

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Abstract:

The Florentine statesman Donato Giannotti was one of the most important political thinkers of the Italian Renaissance. He was a passionate republican throughout his life. In the last Florentine Republic (1527-30), he was actively committed to his native city's internal reform and external defence. However, the champions of the republican cause were no match for the superior might of the Emperor and the Medici Pope, and Giannotti was banished. Far from home, he made a name for himself as the exiled republicans' leading intellectual light. The publication of a book about the Republic of Venice made him famous throughout Europe (1540). His magnum opus about the reform of the Florentine Republic (1534) was circulated among Medici opponents as a secret blueprint in numerous copies; publication would have placed Giannotti in mortal danger. Giannotti hoped for a coup in Florence against the Medici, but the regime change did not take place. This was also fatal for his academic reputation. His great work about the Republic of Florence was only published in a fragmentary version in 1721. The first authentic edition only appeared as late as 1990. This book contains an unrecognized and innovative concept of a division of power that remains relevant to the present day. Giannotti spent forty-three years of his life in exile (1530-73), first in banishment, then partly in the service of cardinals and partly as a private scholar, and finally as a papal secretary.

Keywords: Division of power; Executive power; Foreign-policy power; Forentine Republic; Italian Renaissance; Legislative power; Mixed government; Sienese Republic; Venetian Republic; principality; republicanism; separation of powers; tyrannicide

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Holzstrasse 31, CH-9010 St Gallen, Switzerland., Email: Alois.Riklin@unisg.ch

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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