Renaissance and Reformation Alessandra Macinghi Strozzi
by
Judith Bryce
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0373

Introduction

Alessandra Strozzi (née Macinghi) (Florence, c. 1406–1471), the widow of a member of the Florentine mercantile patriciate, Matteo di Simone Strozzi (1397–1435), is known to posterity primarily as the author of seventy-three surviving letters dated between 1447 and 1470. All, with the exception of one to Iacopo Strozzi (1404–1461), a cousin of her late husband resident in Bruges, are written to her sons, Filippo (1428–1491, later known as Filippo il Vecchio or The Elder), Lorenzo (1432–1479), and Matteo (1436–1459). The family’s history was marked by the trauma of exile, initially in 1434 to Pesaro on the Adriatic coast at the instigation of the de facto ruler of Florence, Cosimo de’ Medici (1389–1464). The sentence ended prematurely in 1435 with the death from plague of Matteo, as well as of three of the children, whereupon a pregnant Alessandra, the two older boys previously mentioned, and two daughters, Caterina (1431–1481) and Alessandra (1434–1502), returned to Florence. Financial circumstances dictated that, at the age of twelve or thirteen, the boys again left home, this time to join the firms of Strozzi relatives operating abroad, for example in Barcelona, Valencia, Bruges, Rome, and Naples. In November 1458, however, history repeated itself, and they were formally exiled by Cosimo de’ Medici’s son and successor, Piero (1416–1469). Physical separation, occasioned first by financial, and, subsequently, by political circumstances, is the raison d’être of their mother’s letter writing, bridging the distance between them, nurturing emotional ties potentially weakened by absence and by time, and allowing her to continue to fulfil her duties of maternal care, for example in relation to their physical and spiritual well-being. In addition, she reported on a host of practical matters relating to family property and finance, conveyed news about the city’s complex and often fast-evolving political situation (the ultimate aim being to discover the ways and means by which pardon and repatriation might be obtained), and offered a detailed account of the efforts made on her sons’ behalf to engineer good marriages for them, thereby ensuring the continuation of the lineage. The final three extant letters of the correspondence, dating from 1469 and 1470, postdate the lifting of the ban of exile in September 1466. They reveal a satisfactory outcome as regards her sons’ marriages and the arrival of the first grandchildren. First published in 1877, her letters constitute both a precious human document and an invaluable scholarly resource.

General Overviews

Although Alessandra’s letters have long been well known and widely available (see Transmission History, Editions, and Translations), it is only recently with Crabb 2000 that she has been the subject of a book-length study. Brucker 1998 remains a very accessible illustrated introduction to Florence in the 14th and 15th centuries, while Najemy 2006 offers a dense political narrative over a wider period, and Black and Law 2015 narrows the focus to the 15th-century Medici. Hay and Law 1989 helps to set the city state in the wider context of the Italian peninsula. Two excellent books that rise to the challenge of providing an overview of the Renaissance are Cox 2016 and King 2017. Schaus 2006 is a useful reference work that covers the period up to 1500 with a specific focus on women and gender. See also the separate Oxford Bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation article The Renaissance. Lastly, Frick 2002 and the contributions in Ajmar-Wollheim and Dennis 2006 offer fascinating insights into aspects of the material culture of the period.

  • Ajmar-Wollheim, Marta, and Flora Dennis, eds. At Home in Renaissance Italy. London: V & A, 2006.

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    Based on the stunning Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition in London. Useful for a better understanding of aspects of the material world revealed in Alessandra’s letters. Articles range from housework to domestic devotional art and from tableware to textiles and clothing. Some brief references to Alessandra herself.

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    • Black, Robert, and John E. Law, eds. The Medici: Citizens and Masters. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015.

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      The history of the Strozzi in the 15th century is inextricably linked with that of the Medici. This edited volume offers a wide range of essays by leading scholars on the notoriously ambiguous political status of the latter, as well as an excellent bibliography.

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      • Brucker, Gene. Florence: The Golden Age, 1138–1737. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

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        Remains a good introductory guide to the city state with chapters on the great families, the economy, politics, and so on, combined with plentiful illustrations.

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        • Cox, Virginia. A Short History of the Italian Renaissance. London: I. B. Tauris, 2016.

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          Covering a range of regional centers, individual figures, texts, and topics, Cox brings fresh insights to bear on a much-discussed subject. As one would expect from this scholar, particular attention is paid to Renaissance women.

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          • Crabb, Ann. The Strozzi of Florence: Widowhood and Family Solidarity in the Renaissance. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000.

            DOI: 10.3998/mpub.15589Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            The first port of call when approaching Alessandra and her family. Essential reading. Also cited under Biographical Studies and Critical Studies.

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            • Frick, Carole C. Dressing Renaissance Florence: Families, Fortunes, and Fine Clothing. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.

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              Ranges from craftspeople and customers (including Alessandra’s son-in-law, Marco Parenti) to the “fashion police” and clothing as represented in the art of the period. Includes useful appendices, for example on currency and measures and on categories of tradespeople and artisans working in the clothing industry.

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              • Hay, Denys, and John Law. Italy in the Age of the Renaissance, 1380–1530. London: Longman, 1989.

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                Particularly useful for establishing a wider context for the letters are Part 2, “Society, the State and the Church,” and Part 3, “Political Histories.” Chapter 9 in the latter covers the complex history of Naples where Filippo Strozzi built his business empire.

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                • King, Margaret L. A Short History of the Renaissance in Europe. 3d ed. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2017.

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                  Third edition of The Renaissance in Europe, first published in 2003. Covering a swathe of time from the Romans to the 16th century, it focuses primarily on the Italian peninsula before opening out to other countries. Highly accessible discussion of topics ranging from politics, art, humanism, and public and private life, to the church, the voyages of discovery, and the birth of opera. Aspects of women’s lives feature under several headings.

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                  • Najemy, John M. A History of Florence, 1200–1575. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006.

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                    Altogether a tour de force of historical exposition. Chapters 9, 10, and 12 on the Medici in the 15th century are clearly relevant but be aware of a notable anti-Medicean bias. Chapter 8 deftly summarizes the vast amount of research that has been conducted on the family, women, marriage, dowries, and inheritance, all of which are recurring topics in Alessandra’s letters.

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                    • Schaus, Margaret, ed. Women and Gender in Medieval Europe: An Encyclopedia. London: Routledge, 2006.

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                      Contains entries on individuals (including Alessandra Strozzi and Lucrezia Tornabuoni by Ann Crabb and F. W. Kent, respectively) and on a wide variety of topics from sexuality and education to family and kinship, widows, and women authors. Articles have brief bibliographies and useful cross-references to related entries.

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                      Biographical Studies

                      Despite its age, Strozzi 1877 is still much consulted and remains a valuable source of information. While Brucker 2005 provides a very readable recent account of Alessandra, it is a fairly brief one. Crabb 2000, on the other hand, is required reading together with Crabb 1992, which explores her status as a widow. Pampaloni 1963 provides information about Alessandra and her husband, and Parenti 1996 about relations between Alessandra’s son-in-law and members of the family, while La Roncière 1990 has a specific focus on the latter’s experience of political exile. A number of reference works, not least those concerning women in the Renaissance, contain short entries on Alessandra (e.g., see Schaus 2006, cited under General Overviews). The most important of these, however, is probably Doni Garfagnini 2006 in the Dizionario biografico degli Italiani, itself a vital resource for information regarding many of the individuals mentioned in her letters. Doni Garfagnini mentions Alessandra’s one surviving personal account book (Archivio di Stato di Firenze, Carte Strozziane, Series 5, 15) and Maria Luisa Fioravanti’s edition of this manuscript, completed in 1980 as a University of Florence tesi di laurea. Given current regulations, this latter remains essentially inaccessible, however, making a new critical edition highly desirable. Nor is there a published monograph providing a coherent history of this branch of the Strozzi in the period, but Fabbri 1991 focuses on their marriages while Gregory 1991 provides some additional context. Further biographical information can also be gleaned from other sources such as Doni Garfagnini 1999 (cited under Critical Studies) and, for her eldest son, Gregory 1985 (cited under Fifteenth-Century Florence: Politics) and Del Treppo 1986, Goldthwaite 1968, and Jacoviello 1986 (all cited under Fifteenth-Century Florence: Economy and Finance).

                      • Brucker, Gene A. “Alessandra Strozzi, 1408–1471: The Eventful Life of a Florentine Matron.” In Living on the Edge in Leonardo’s Florence: Selected Essays. By Gene A. Brucker, 151–168. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.

                        DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520241343.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                        As the title suggests, a short but lively account of Alessandra, her life, and her correspondence.

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                        • Crabb, Ann. “How Typical Was Alessandra Strozzi of Fifteenth-Century Florentine Widows?” In Upon My Husband’s Death: Widows in the Literature and Histories of Medieval Europe. Edited by Louise Mirrer, 47–68. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992.

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                          Survey of Alessandra’s life as a widowed mother. Comparison of her experience with that of other female contemporaries in Florence leads to the conclusion that she was not in fact unique except, of course, for her unusual prominence in historical and scholarly accounts of the period.

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                          • Crabb, Ann. The Strozzi of Florence: Widowhood and Family Solidarity in the Renaissance. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000.

                            DOI: 10.3998/mpub.15589Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                            A full account of Alessandra’s life and the lives of her immediate family with chapters on her daughters and sons-in-law, on the career trajectories of her sons from apprentices to international bankers and merchants, and the joint effort of mother and sons to restore the latter to their native city. The letters are extensively quarried, but there is also new archival material. Genealogical tables of the Strozzi and the Macinghi. Also cited under General Overviews and Critical Studies.

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                            • Doni Garfagnini, Manuela. “Macinghi, Alessandra.” Dizionario biografico degli Italiani 67 (2006): 113–117.

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                              Necessarily brief but densely informative entry. Bibliography contains archival as well as printed sources.

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                              • Fabbri, Lorenzo. Alleanza matrimoniale e patriziato nella Firenze del ’400: Studio sulla famiglia Strozzi. Florence: Olschki, 1991.

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                                After a brief profile of the Strozzi lineage, concentrates on forty-two Strozzi marriages from four generations, including Alessandra’s children and grandchildren. Extensive deployment of her letters and of archival material from ASF, Carte Strozziane. Contains a useful genealogical table and appendices. Also cited under Fifteenth-Century Florence: Society.

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                                • Gregory, Heather. “Chi erano gli Strozzi nel Quattrocento?” In Palazzo Strozzi: Metà millennio 1489–1989: Atti del convegno di studi, Firenze, 3–6 luglio 1989. Edited by Daniela Lamberini, 15–29. Rome: Istituto della enciclopedia italiana, 1991.

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                                  Focuses on two branches of the thirty-nine households bearing the Strozzi name, probing issues of disparities of wealth and social status, of fluctuating political and economic fortunes, and of a common identity as a lineage. Illuminates some of the Strozzi networks apparent in the letters. Filippo’s new palace, to which the volume as a whole is devoted, of course postdates Alessandra’s death, but it is tempting, nevertheless, to view the building as a sort of indirect maternal legacy.

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                                  • La Roncière, Charles de. “L’exil de Filippo et Lorenzo di Matteo Strozzi d’après les lettres de monna Alessandra Macinghi negli Strozzi, leur mère, 1441–1466.” In Exil et civilisation en Italie: XIIe–XVIe siècles. Edited by Jacques Heers and Christian Bec, 67–93. Nancy, France: Presses universitaires de Nancy, 1990.

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                                    Wide-ranging account of Alessandra, her sons, and the letters in the context of separation and exile.

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                                    • Pampaloni, Guido. Palazzo Strozzi. Rome: Istituto nazionale delle assicurazioni, 1963.

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                                      Chapter 1 remains useful for biographical information about Alessandra and her husband based on archival sources.

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                                      • Parenti, Marco. Lettere. Edited by Maria Marese. Florence: Olschki, 1996.

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                                        The letters of Alessandra’s son-in-law to her sons contain occasional glimpses of Alessandra herself. They often run in parallel with her own correspondence and shed light on its contents, particularly as regards moments of political unrest in the city and the protracted hunt for marriage partners for Filippo and Lorenzo.

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                                        • Strozzi, Alessandra Macinghi. Lettere di una gentildonna fiorentina del secolo XV ai figliuoli esuli. Edited by Cesare Guasti. Florence: Sansoni, 1877.

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                                          The introduction contains biographical information, while the frequent appendices to individual letters offer substantial transcriptions of parts of her sons’ letters to each other. There are also other archival documents relating, for example, to Strozzi individuals mentioned in the letters, to the terms of the 1458 exile, and to Alessandra’s death and last wishes. Also cited under Transmission History, Editions, and Translations.

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                                          Transmission History, Editions, and Translations

                                          In the first edition of Alessandra’s letters (Strozzi 1877), Guasti says nothing specific about the archival sources he used. While we await the new Italian critical edition, which is highly desirable, we must fall back on sources such as Biagioli 2000. Insabato 1994 provides a lucid account of the transmission history of the Strozzi archive. Strozzi 1877, together with the additional letter published in Strozzi 1890, remain the basis for subsequent editions such as Strozzi 1987. English translations of individual passages, often the authors’ own, are widespread in the scholarly literature. Strozzi 1997 offers a partial bilingual edition, while Strozzi 2016, in the monumental Other Voice in Early Modern Europe series under the general editorship of Albert Rabil Jr. and Margaret L. King, attempts a translation of the full text.

                                          • Biagioli, Beatrice. “Scritture di donne nei fondi di origine privata dell’Archivio di Stato di Firenze.” Archivio per la memoria e la scrittura delle donne, 2000.

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                                            Attempts to draw up a list identifying the filze of ASF, Carte Strozziane, Series 3, which contain the extant letters by Alessandra (pp. 55–56). The result has some omissions and errors, but it provides an important starting point.

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                                            • Insabato, Elisabetta. “Le ‘nostre chare iscritture’: La trasmissione delle carte di famiglia nei grandi casati toscani dal XV al XVIII secolo.” In Istituzioni e società in Toscana nell’età moderna: Atti delle giornate di studio dedicate a Giuseppe Pansini (Firenze 4–5 dicembre 1992). Vol. 2. Edited by Claudio Lamioni, 878–911. Rome: Ministero per i beni culturali e ambientali, 1994.

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                                              Also available online. Contains an account of the history of the Strozzi papers (see particularly pp. 891–911).

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                                              • Strozzi, Alessandra Macinghi. Lettere di una gentildonna fiorentina del secolo XV ai figliuoli esuli. Edited by Cesare Guasti. Florence: Sansoni, 1877.

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                                                Guasti’s edition remains the standard source of reference for the original letters. It is still readily available, for instance Florence: Licosa Reprints, 1972; Breinigsville, PA: Kessinger Publishing’s Legacy Reprints, 2010; and online. The original edition contained seventy-two of the seventy-three surviving letters, the additional one being published very shortly afterwards, and then subsequently in a number of reprints, editions, and translations. See Strozzi 1890. Also cited under Biographical Studies.

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                                                • Strozzi, Alessandra Macinghi. Una lettera della Alessandra Macinghi Strozzi in aggiunta alle LXXII pubblicate da Cesare Guasti nel 1877. Edited by Isidoro del Lungo. Florence: Carnesecchi, 1890.

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                                                  Publishes an additional letter to Filippo in Naples dated 8 November 1448, which is later included in, for example, the 1972 reprint (Florence: Licosa Reprints) of Strozzi 1877 as an appendix, in Strozzi 1987 in chronological order as “lettera seconda aggiunta,” and in Strozzi 2016 as Letter 2a.

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                                                  • Strozzi, Alessandra Macinghi. Tempo di affetti e di mercanti: Lettere ai figli esuli. Edited with introduction by Angela Bianchini. Milan: Garzanti, 1987.

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                                                    Offers a substantial introduction but, as has been pointed out by reviewers, the text of the letters still relies wholly on Guasti as, overwhelmingly, do the notes. Provides only a selective index of names.

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                                                    • Strozzi, Alessandra Macinghi. Selected Letters of Alessandra Strozzi. Edited and translated by Heather Gregory. Bilingual ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

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                                                      Pioneering translation into English of selected parts of thirty-five of the letters, together with the relevant Italian text based on Strozzi 1877.

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                                                      • Strozzi, Alessandra Macinghi. Letters to Her Sons (1447–1470). Edited and translated by Judith Bryce. The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series, 46. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 493. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2016.

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                                                        Translation of the full text of all seventy-three letters with an introduction, illustrations, extensive notes, and a detailed name and subject index.

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                                                        Women’s Literacy and Letter Writing

                                                        There have been, and probably will continue to be arguments concerning the nature and extent of Florentine women’s literacy in the period in question, with Bryce 2005, Klapisch-Zuber 1984, Klapisch-Zuber 2012, Miglio 2008, and Plebani 2001 taking varying approaches. On the specific topic of women and letter writing in Italy in the period there is a substantial amount of scholarly work ranging from individual studies such as those by Crabb 2005, Crabb 2007, Doglio 2000, and Miglio 2008 to excellent edited volumes of essays such as Zarri 1999. Daybell 2006, although writing about a different culture and a slightly later period, nevertheless offers a wealth of insights into women’s use of the medium. For further relevant sources, see the separate Oxford Bibliographies articles in Renaissance and Reformation, “Letter Writing and Epistolary Culture” (particularly the subheading “Women’s Letter Writing”), and “Women and Learning” (e.g., under subheadings “Letter Writing” and “Education”).

                                                        • Bryce, Judith. “Les Livres des Florentines: Reconsidering Women’s Literacy in Quattrocento Florence.” In At the Margins: Minority Groups in Premodern Italy. Edited by Stephen J. Milner, 133–161. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005.

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                                                          Reviews the evidence and advances a less negative view of the subject than is sometimes the case, warning against the dangers of taking prescriptive male pronouncements as an unproblematic reflection of a surely more complex, nuanced, and no doubt contradictory reality.

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                                                          • Crabb, Ann. “How to Influence Your Children: Persuasion and Form in Alessandra Macigni Strozzi’s Letters to Her Sons.” In Women’s Letters Across Europe, 1400–1700: Form and Persuasion. Edited by Jane Couchman and Ann Crabb, 21–41. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2005.

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                                                            Contains a section on women’s literacy and letter writing (pp. 30–33), while the edited volume as a whole provides a broader context. Also cited under Critical Studies.

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                                                            • Crabb, Ann. “‘If I Could Write’: Margherita Datini and Letter Writing, 1385–1410.” Renaissance Quarterly 60 (2007): 1170–1206.

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                                                              Sympathetic and nuanced study of another woman’s comparatively late acquisition of literacy skills.

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                                                              • Daybell, James. Women Letter-Writers in Tudor England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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                                                                Insightful study by a major scholar in the field. In this and other relevant publications Daybell provides a wealth of conceptual tools that can be deployed in other contexts.

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                                                                • Doglio, Maria Luisa. “Letter Writing, 1350–1650.” In A History of Women’s Writing in Italy. Edited by Letizia Panizza and Sharon Wood, 13–24. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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                                                                  One of several relevant studies by this scholar. Touches on a range of very different individual letter writers from Saint Catherine of Siena and Alessandra Strozzi to Vittoria Colonna, Veronica Franco, and Isabella Andreini.

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                                                                  • Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane. “Le chiavi fiorentine di Barbablù: L’apprendimento della lettura a Firenze nel XV secolo.” Quaderni storici 57.3 (1984): 765–792.

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                                                                    A groundbreaking study of the question. Amasses a wealth of examples while tending toward a generally negative picture of women’s access to literacy. A French version of the article is to be found in her La maison et le nom: Stratégies et rituels dans l’Italie de la Renaissance, 309–330 (Paris: Éditions de l’école des hautes études en sciences sociales, 1990).

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                                                                    • Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane. “Épistolières florentines des XIVe–XVe siècles.” Clio: Histoire, femmes et sociétés 35 (2012): 129–145.

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                                                                      After a brief consideration of Alessandra Strozzi as part of a survey of early Florentine female literacy, focuses on the case of Dora Guidalotti del Bene’s letters to her husband at the close of the 14th century.

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                                                                      • Miglio, Luisa. Governare l’alfabeto: Donne, scrittura e libri nel Medioevo. Rome: Viella, 2008.

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                                                                        An important contribution to the subject. In an overall view that female literacy is rather rare and often of low quality, Alessandra Strozzi is regarded as something of an exception. An appendix offers an anthology (with photographs of archival originals and transcriptions) of sixty-six previously unpublished examples of letters by women including Filippo Strozzi’s mother-in-law, Antonia degli Orsi.

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                                                                        • Plebani, Tiziana. Il “genere” dei libri: Storie e rappresentazioni della lettura al femminile e al maschile tra Medioevo e età moderna. Milan: FrancoAngeli, 2001.

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                                                                          Examines readers, writers, and visual representations of these, as well as women’s presence in the business of book production and in family archives. Subtle and wide-ranging analysis of their varying interests, capabilities, aims, experiences, and contexts (oral, domestic, cultural and religious), setting aside the conventional focus on specifically “literary” skills in favor of “piccoli pezzi di carta ripiegata” (p. 186).

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                                                                          • Zarri, Gabriella, ed. Per lettera: La scrittura epistolare femminile tra archivio e tipografia, secoli XV–XVII. Rome: Viella, 1999.

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                                                                            While most of the contributions concentrate on writers belonging to the two centuries after Alessandra, the volume is useful overall as a thoughtful contextualization of early Italian women’s desire for communication and self-expression.

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                                                                            Renaissance Women

                                                                            The bibliography on women of the period is now very substantial, including dedicated dictionaries and encyclopedias such as Schaus 2006 (cited under General Overviews). King 1991 provides a valuable survey of the wider Italian scene, with Klapisch-Zuber 1992 opening up a still broader geographical context. Cox 2008 examines the more formal participation of women writers in the world of letters, while Tomas 2003 focuses on the Medici women and power. Chabot 1999, Chabot 2011, Gregory 1987, Klapisch-Zuber 1985, and Kuehn 1991 are all major contributions on relevant Florentine topics such as dowries, marriage, widowhood, and legal and familial status. Seidel Menchi, et al. 1999 offers a range of articles on Florentine and other women’s experience. Also see Women’s Literacy and Letter Writing, and Fifteenth-Century Florence (under the subheading “Society”) and the separate Oxford Bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation articles Family and Childhood, Marriage and Dowry, Widowhood, and Women and Learning.

                                                                            • Chabot, Isabelle. “Lineage Strategies and the Control of Widows in Renaissance Florence.” In Widowhood in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Edited by Sandra Cavallo and Lyndan Warner, 127–144. Harlow, UK: Longman, 1999.

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                                                                              One of a number of studies by this author specifically devoted to the category of widows to which Alessandra belonged throughout the period of her surviving correspondence. It impacted on her relationship to male relatives as well as to the wider society of Florence, the Church, the legal system, and money and property.

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                                                                              • Chabot, Isabelle. La dette des familles: Femmes, lignage et patrimoine à Florence aux XIVe et XVe siècles. Rome: École française de Rome, 2011.

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                                                                                A virtuoso study of Florentine women as daughters, wives, mothers, and widows, examining their legal status, its financial and other consequences, and the resulting constraints on, and challenges to, their agency.

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                                                                                • Cox, Virginia. Women’s Writing in Italy, 1400–1650. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                  Subtle and sophisticated survey of women writers who, despite continuing gender inequality in the legal, social, economic, and political spheres, emerged to take up positions within the public literary arena (unlike Alessandra who operated purely within the private sphere), before once again experiencing a “backlash” and consequent remarginalization toward the end of the period. Contains a useful appendix listing early printed editions of their works.

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                                                                                  • Gregory, Heather. “Daughters, Dowries, and the Family in Fifteenth-Century Florence.” Rinascimento 27 (1987): 215–237.

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                                                                                    Examines Florentine women caught in a system aimed at creating alliances between men. Many Strozzi examples, including Alessandra’s daughters and daughters-in-law.

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                                                                                    • King, Margaret L. Women of the Renaissance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226436166.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      A classic study. In the present context, see in particular chapter 1, “Women in the Family.”

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                                                                                      • Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane. Women, Family, and Ritual in Renaissance Italy. Translated by Lydia Cochrane. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.

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                                                                                        Includes trailblazing studies on a wide variety of topics: household structure; extra-familial social relations; childhood; Florentine widows’ potential abandonment of children on remarriage; wet-nursing; the dowry and marriage gifts, and naming practices. Contains references to Alessandra and to members of the Strozzi family.

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                                                                                        • Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane, ed. A History of Women in the West. Vol. 2, Silences of the Middle Ages. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1992.

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                                                                                          Contributors examine the views regarding women developed by male authorities, both secular and religious, between the 6th and the 15th centuries, and the impact these inevitably had on women’s own views of themselves, with apparently only limited opportunities for autonomous self-expression. Feminist history has moved on since the early 1990s but the volume nevertheless remains significant.

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                                                                                          • Kuehn, Thomas. Law, Family, and Women: Toward a Legal Anthropology of Renaissance Italy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226457659.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            Part 3 of this volume is on the subject of women’s legal position and capabilities, emphasizing constraints but also rights. In this and other relevant publications, Kuehn, as a legal historian, is quite justifiably critical of the “legal naivety” of scholars from other disciplines.

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                                                                                            • Seidel Menchi, Silvana, Anne Jacobson Schutte, and Thomas Kuehn, eds. Tempi e spazi di vita femminile tra Medioevo ed età moderna. Bologna, Italy: Il Mulino, 1999.

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                                                                                              This volume emerged from a conference devoted to the female life cycle and the social and physical spaces in which women lived their lives in Italy and beyond. Includes articles by Kuehn, Kirshner, Zarri, Chojnacki, and Chabot. A version in English, Time, Space, and Women’s Lives in Early Modern Europe (Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2001), features a slightly different line-up, for example without Chabot on second marriages.

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                                                                                              • Tomas, Natalie R. The Medici Women: Gender and Power in Renaissance Florence. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2003.

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                                                                                                Individuals ranging from Contessina Bardi de’ Medici (d. 1478) to Maria Salviati de’ Medici (d. 1543) are reexamined as Tomas addresses the vexed question of women’s access to power. Of particular interest in the present context are the pages devoted to the wife of Piero de’ Medici, Lucrezia Tornabuoni, whose influence Alessandra Strozzi reluctantly, and bad-temperedly, acknowledges in Letter 45.

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                                                                                                Critical Studies

                                                                                                The letters are regularly quarried for information on a whole variety of topics, most notably Florentine politics and marriage. There are, however, comparatively few studies devoted to subjecting their contents to more systematic examination. Crabb 2000 remains an obvious point of departure, with Crabb 2005 homing in on a particular theme. Of the other items, Niccoli 1994 is only a very brief analysis, while the meatiest studies are Trifone 1989 on language and editorial matters, Ulysse 1991 on exile and mother–son relations, Valori 1998 on the forms of honor touched on in the letters, and Doglio 1984 and Doni Garfagnini 1999, both of which are interested in Alessandra’s educative agenda in relation to her sons.

                                                                                                • Crabb, Ann. The Strozzi of Florence: Widowhood and Family Solidarity in the Renaissance. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.3998/mpub.15589Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  Raises issues relating to the letters such as authorial self-presentation, gender conventions, and male authority and female agency. Also cited under General Overviews and Biographical Studies.

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                                                                                                  • Crabb, Ann. “How to Influence Your Children: Persuasion and Form in Alessandra Macigni Strozzi’s Letters to Her Sons.” In Women’s Letters Across Europe, 1400–1700: Form and Persuasion. Edited by Jane Couchman and Ann Crabb, 21–41. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2005.

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                                                                                                    Examines the central question of Alessandra’s maternal authority. Also cited under Women’s Literacy and Letter Writing.

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                                                                                                    • Doglio, Maria Luisa. “Scrivere come donna: Fenomenologia delle ‘Lettere’ familiari di Alessandra Macinghi Strozzi.” Lettere italiane 36 (1984): 484–497.

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                                                                                                      Reprinted in Doglio, Lettera e donna: Scrittura epistolare al femminile tra Quattro e Cinquecento (Rome: Bulzoni, 1993), pp. 1–15. Stresses the fundamentally private nature of the correspondence, driven by the urgent need to communicate with her absent sons. Accumulates dense assemblages of quotations from the letters to underpin her examination of topics including the extensive presence of ammaestramenti which reveal a strong maternal didactic concern.

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                                                                                                      • Doni Garfagnini, Manuela. “Conduzione familiare e vita cittadina nelle lettere di Alessandra Macinghi Strozzi.” In Per lettera: La scrittura epistolare femminile tra archivio e tipografia, secoli XV–XVII. Edited by Gabriella Zarri, 387–411. Rome: Viella, 1999.

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                                                                                                        Focuses on the essentially practical, pedagogical nature of the letters, and their reflection of a mercantile mentality. Useful clarification of issues such as Alessandra’s dowry, taxation, property-holding, and preservation of her sons’ patrimony.

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                                                                                                        • Niccoli, Ottavia. “Forme di cultura e condizioni di vita in due epistolari femminili del Rinascimento.” In Les femmes écrivains en Italie au Moyen Âge et à la Renaissance: Actes du colloque international, Aix-en-Provence, 12, 13, 14 novembre 1992. 13–32. Aix-en-Provence, France: Publications de l’université de Provence, 1994.

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                                                                                                          Having identified their bodies, education, and dowries as three key issues in the lives of women in the period, Niccoli uses Alessandra’s letters as the basis for one of two short case studies.

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                                                                                                          • Trifone, Pietro. “Sul testo e sulla lingua delle lettere di Alessandra Macinghi Strozzi.” Studi linguistici italiani 15 (1989): 65–99.

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                                                                                                            Provides an excellent analysis of the linguistic features of the letters, illuminating, for example, the medical terminology she employs. Also useful for pointing out Guasti’s occasional errors, a significant omission which occurs in Letter 72 (reinstated in Strozzi 2016, cited under Transmission History, Editions, and Translations), and his tendency to modernize the original texts. Trifone thereby provides a point of departure for the much needed new critical edition.

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                                                                                                            • Ulysse, Georges. “De la séparation et de l’exil: Les lettres d’Alessandra Macinghi Strozzi.” In L’exil et l’exclusion dans la culture italienne: Actes du colloque franco-italien, Aix-en-Provence, 19–20–21 octobre 1989. Edited by Georges Ulysse, 89–112. Aix-en-Provence, France: Publications de l’université de Provence, 1991.

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                                                                                                              In this reading, Alessandra emerges as domineering, overly possessive, and manipulative, both stifling and infantilizing her sons. A challenging interpretation and useful for that very reason.

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                                                                                                              • Valori, Alessandro. “‘Da lei viene ogni utile e ogni onore’: Lettere di Alessandra Macinghi Strozzi ai figli e la tutela del ‘patrimonio morale’ della famiglia.” Archivio storico italiano 156 (1998): 25–72.

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                                                                                                                The “lei” in the quotation, which is borrowed from her son-in-law, Marco Parenti, refers not to Alessandra but to “virtue.” The article foregrounds the various forms of honor so frequently referred to in the letters, whether in the field of business ethics, personal behaviors, marriage, or office-holding.

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                                                                                                                Fifteenth-Century Florence

                                                                                                                If Alessandra’s letters clearly contribute to our historical understanding of the multiple interlocking contexts in which they were written, reading them also requires a more than superficial knowledge of those same contexts, three of which are represented here. See also the separate Oxford Bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation article Florence.

                                                                                                                Politics

                                                                                                                In Letter 49 to Filippo of 26 July 1465 in which she reported on current affairs, Alessandra admitted: “I wouldn’t be concerned about such things if it were not for our particular situation.” Indeed, an understanding of the political context of the period covered by the letters is crucial, and a vast body of scholarship exists in relation to this particular period of Florentine history, chiefly characterized by the rise to political prominence of the Medici and by the subsequent, and not infrequent, challenges to their primacy. Clarke 1991, Ganz 1994, Ganz 2007, Kent 1978, and Phillips 1987 are just a selection of important contributions to the field. See also Black and Law 2015 and Najemy 2006 (both cited under General Overviews) and Parenti 1996 (cited under Biographical Studies). Brown 2002 and Shaw 2000 examine aspects of exile, a major weapon in the armory of those who were successful in the struggle for power, while Gregory 1985 specifically focuses on the case of Alessandra’s eldest son, and Ganz 1994 on the difficulties experienced by Florentine women in such circumstances. Pampaloni 1961 and Rubinstein 1997 illuminate the subtly evolving complexities of Florentine politics together with the city’s governmental and electoral systems.

                                                                                                                • Brown, Alison. “Insiders and Outsiders: The Changing Boundaries of Exile.” In Society and Individual in Renaissance Florence. Edited by William J. Connell, 337–383. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520232549.003.0015Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  Examines the meaning of exile in the 15th century with particular reference to dates that are significant for Alessandra, namely 1434, 1458, and 1466. Concludes with a most useful appendix listing individual Florentines exiled between 1433 and 1494.

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                                                                                                                  • Clarke, Paula C. The Soderini and the Medici: Power and Patronage in Fifteenth-Century Florence. Oxford: Clarendon, 1991.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198229926.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    This study of Tommaso and Niccolò Soderini illuminates the shifting loyalties and political tensions of the period. It also fleshes out the late career and downfall of the latter brother who is mentioned in a number of Alessandra’s letters, particularly during his time as gonfaloniere di giustizia in the autumn of 1465 and its aftermath. Married to her half-sister Ginevra, Niccolò was also Alessandra’s antagonist in Macinghi family inheritance disputes.

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                                                                                                                    • Ganz, Margery A. “Paying the Price for Political Failure: Florentine Women in the Aftermath of 1466.” Rinascimento 34 (1994): 237–257.

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                                                                                                                      While Alessandra’s sons were pardoned by the Medici and repatriated, other women in turn were to suffer as their male relatives were exiled. These included Alessandra’s half-sister, Ginevra Macinghi, the wife of Niccolò Soderini. Despite some confusion about Ginevra’s personal data (see p. 240, n. 8, but compare p. 248, n. 37), the article provides valuable insights as regards the practical and emotional implications for women caught in this predicament.

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                                                                                                                      • Ganz, Margery A. “‘Buon amici ma non per sempre’: Agnolo Acciaiuoli, Luca Pitti, Niccolò Soderini and the Medici, 1430s to 1460.” In Italian Art, Society, and Politics: A Festschrift in Honor of Rab Hatfield. Edited by Barbara Deimling, Jonathan K. Nelson, and Gary M. Radke, 72–82. Florence: Syracuse University in Florence, 2007.

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                                                                                                                        One of a number of articles by this scholar that explore the minutiae of shifting Florentine power networks over the mid-century. All the individuals mentioned in her title make an appearance in Alessandra’s letters.

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                                                                                                                        • Gregory, Heather. “The Return of the Native: Filippo Strozzi and Medicean Politics.” Renaissance Quarterly 38.1 (1985): 1–21.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/2861329Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          Describes the period of formal exile from 1458 to Filippo and his brother’s eventual repatriation in September 1466, together with the aftermath of that return. Filippo increasingly assumed a position of seniority as regards the wider Strozzi clan but enjoyed only a slow and partial reentry to the active political life of the republic.

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                                                                                                                          • Kent, Dale. The Rise of the Medici: Faction in Florence, 1426–1434. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978.

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                                                                                                                            Classic study of the period of political contestation that resulted in the triumph of Cosimo de’ Medici and the formal exile from Florence of Alessandra’s family in 1434. Contains scattered references to her husband, Matteo di Simone Strozzi.

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                                                                                                                            • Pampaloni, Guido. “Fermenti di riforme democratiche nella Firenze medicea del Quattrocento.” Archivio storico italiano 119 (1961): 11–62, 241–281.

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                                                                                                                              This, together with its sequel “Nuovi tentativi di riforme alla costituzione fiorentina visti attraverso le consulte.” Archivio storico italiano 120 (1962): 521–581, exploits the minutes of consultative council meetings to expose the factional wrangling at the heart of government in the crucial years 1465 and 1466.

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                                                                                                                              • Phillips, Mark. The Memoir of Marco Parenti: A Life in Medici Florence. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.

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                                                                                                                                Accessible study of the life and political views of Alessandra’s son-in-law. Essential reading.

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                                                                                                                                • Rubinstein, Nicolai. The Government of Florence under the Medici, 1434 to 1494. 2d ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                  First published in 1966, this landmark study of the Florentine political system is useful for teasing out often obscure references in Alessandra’s letters to public events as they are actually unfolding.

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                                                                                                                                  • Shaw, Christine. The Politics of Exile in Renaissance Italy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511496912Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    Systematic analysis of the practice and experience of political exile in Italian states such as Florence and Siena.

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                                                                                                                                    Society

                                                                                                                                    The richness of the archival sources, both public and private, available for Florence in this period has been a major factor underlying the huge volume of publications generated by scholars operating across the diverse territories covered by social history. Studies of Florentine marriage and the state dowry system have been especially abundant, of which Fabbri 1991, Kirshner 2002, Kirshner and Molho 1978, and Molho 1994 are examples. Connell 2002 and Kent 1977 address the vexed questions of the individual, the family, wider society, and the interrelationship between these, while Trexler 1991 adopts an innovative, and subsequently influential, anthropological approach. Connell 2002 and Peterson and Bornstein 2008 represent just two of the essay collections that regularly appear on the society of Renaissance Florence. Kent and Kent 1982 provides an in-depth study of a particular Florentine neighborhood, with Tomas 2006 focusing on the spaces occupied by, or denied to, women in the city. On women in Florentine society see also Klapisch-Zuber 1985 and other titles and cross-references under Renaissance Women.

                                                                                                                                    • Connell, William J., ed. Society and Individual in Renaissance Florence. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                      A frequently cited collection of essays that rejects an older insistence on Renaissance “individualism,” focusing instead on the central theme of how “Florentines experienced or shaped their identity in interaction with their society” (p. 7). Ranges from marriage and naming nuns to political networks and the criminal underworld.

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                                                                                                                                      • Fabbri, Lorenzo. Alleanza matrimoniale e patriziato nella Firenze del ’400: Studio sulla famiglia Strozzi. Florence: Olschki, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                        Utilizes a wealth of Strozzi family examples to analyze the norms and practices of the Florentine marriage market as experienced by members of the mercantile elite. Also cited under Biographical Studies.

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                                                                                                                                        • Kent, F. W. Household and Lineage in Renaissance Florence: The Family Life of the Capponi, Ginori, and Rucellai. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977.

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                                                                                                                                          One of many relevant studies of Florentine society and, in particular, of the Florentine family by this scholar. The families of the title all feature in Alessandra’s letters.

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                                                                                                                                          • Kent, Dale V., and F. W. Kent. Neighbours and Neighbourhood in Renaissance Florence: The District of the Red Lion in the Fifteenth Century. Locust Valley, NY: J. J. Augustin, 1982.

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                                                                                                                                            Classic study concentrating on the neighborhood inhabited by many Strozzi households including Alessandra’s. Valuable for getting to grips with the local bases of taxation and office-holding.

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                                                                                                                                            • Kirshner, Julius. “Li emergenti bisogni matrimoniali in Renaissance Florence.” In Society and Individual in Renaissance Florence. Edited by William J. Connell, 79–109. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520232549.003.0004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              As a counterweight to studies of the bridal dowry, this article concentrates instead on the wedding expenses borne by Florentine husbands. The phrase in the title is borrowed from Alessandra’s grandson, Piero di Marco Parenti.

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                                                                                                                                              • Kirshner, Julius, and Anthony Molho. “The Dowry Fund and the Marriage Market in Early Quattrocento Florence.” Journal of Modern History 50.3 (1978): 403–438.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1086/241732Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                Seminal study marking the start of what has become a considerable body of scholarship exploiting the riches of the archival sources relating to the state dowry fund (Monte delle doti).

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                                                                                                                                                • Molho, Anthony. Marriage Alliance in Late Medieval Florence. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994.

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                                                                                                                                                  Describes the unique nature of the state dowry fund (Monte delle doti) before examining matrimonial alliances undertaken by 110 families from the city’s social elite, including that of Alessandra’s elder daughter, Caterina, with Marco Parenti.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Peterson, David S., and Daniel Bornstein, eds. Florence and Beyond: Culture, Society, and Politics in Renaissance Italy: Essays in Honour of John M. Najemy. Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                    Valuable collection of essays by leading scholars, particularly the contributions in Part 3 on society where the focus is largely on family and gender and in Part 4 on politics.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Tomas, Natalie R. “Did Women Have a Space?” In Renaissance Florence: A Social History. Edited by Roger J. Crum and John T. Paoletti, 311–328. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                      Although Tomas is the only scholar in the collection to focus on women (including references to Alessandra), this volume offers much that is of interest in its focus on 15th-century Florentines and the dynamics of the spaces they inhabited.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Trexler, Richard C. Public Life in Renaissance Florence. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                        First published in 1980, this was a highly original and, at the time, controversial study. Explores the public ritual behaviors of Florentines in a variety of contexts and stresses the importance of these in the business of identity formation.

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                                                                                                                                                        Economy and Finance

                                                                                                                                                        Many topics falling under this general heading feature in Alessandra’s letters. These include commodity prices, the cost of transporting goods, property acquisition and land sales, investments, wills, taxation, Florentine bank failures, and the movements of the galley fleet of the republic. A recent overview of the economy is Goldthwaite 2009, but Goldthwaite 1968 remains useful for information on her family. On the complex issue of taxation, Herlihy and Klapisch-Zuber 1985 remains the go-to source on the Catasto instituted in the late 1420s, while Conti 1984 and Palmieri 1983 extend the survey of changing forms of taxation across the century. Del Treppo 1986 and Jacoviello 1986 shed light on Florentine merchants operating in the Kingdom of Naples and on the career of Filippo Strozzi, in particular. Guidi Bruscoli 2012 surveys the families and individuals involved in banking and commerce in Bruges where Lorenzo Strozzi spent part of his working life. Mallett 1967 remains a classic on the Florentine galley fleet. See also the separate Oxford Bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation article Trade Networks.

                                                                                                                                                        • Conti, Elio. L’imposta diretta a Firenze nel Quattrocento, 1427–94. Rome: Istituto storico italiano per il Medio Evo, 1984.

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                                                                                                                                                          Useful for any attempt to elucidate Alessandra’s fairly frequent references to (and laments about) the Florentine tax regime.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Del Treppo, Mario. “Il re e il banchiere: Strumenti e processi di razionalizzazione dello stato aragonese di Napoli.” In Spazio, società, potere nell’Italia dei comuni. Edited by Gabriella Rossetti Pepe, 229–304. Naples, Italy: Liguori, 1986.

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                                                                                                                                                            Primarily an in-depth analysis of the range of the Strozzi client base as it appears in the brothers’ giornale del banco of 1473 published by A. Leone in 1981.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Goldthwaite, Richard A. Private Wealth in Renaissance Florence: A Study of Four Families. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968.

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                                                                                                                                                              Includes an examination of the financial and business affairs of Alessandra’s husband, Matteo, and of her eldest son, Filippo. See, in particular, chapter 2.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Goldthwaite, Richard A. The Economy of Renaissance Florence. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                Magisterial survey by a leading expert in the field. Includes a brief reference to this aspect of Alessandra’s activities. Invaluable for contextualization.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Guidi Bruscoli, Francesco. “Mercanti-banchieri fiorentini tra Londra e Bruges nel XV secolo.” In “Mercatura è arte”: Uomini d’affari toscani in Europa e nel Mediterraneo tardomedievale. Edited by Lorenzo Tanzini and Sergio Tognetti, 11–44. Rome: Viella, 2012.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Provides a survey of the Florentine merchants operating in these Northern European centers, including the Strozzi (Iacopo di Lionardo, Lorenzo’s employer), the Medici, and the Bardi, among many others. Also reflects briefly on the character of such communities and their internal and external relations.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Herlihy, David, and Christiane Klapisch-Zuber. Tuscans and Their Families: A Study of the Florentine Catasto of 1427. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Abridged translation of the original French edition, Les toscans et leurs familles: Une étude du “catasto” florentin de 1427 (Paris: École des hautes études en sciences sociales, 1978). Description and exhaustive statistical study of the innovative taxation instrument established by a law of May 1427. The detailed declarations submitted by inhabitants of the city and its territories provide rich sources of information for financial, demographic, and other analyses.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Jacoviello, Michele. “Affari di Medici e Strozzi nel regno di Napoli nella seconda metà del Quattrocento.” Archivio storico italiano 144 (1986): 169–196.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Contextualizes and fleshes out what Alessandra’s letters reveal as regards the rise to economic prominence of her eldest son.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Mallett, Michael. The Florentine Galleys in the Fifteenth Century: With the Diary of Luca di Maso degli Albizzi, Captain of the Galleys, 1429–1430. Oxford: Clarendon, 1967.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Classic study of the state galley system that reached its zenith in the middle decades of the century. Alessandra’s brief references to shipping movements can be compared with Mallett’s tables of voyages to the Low Countries and England in one direction, and the Eastern Mediterranean in the other.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Palmieri, Matteo. Ricordi fiscali, 1427–1474: Con due appendici relative al 1474–1495. Edited by Elio Conti. Rome: Istituto storico italiano per il Medio Evo, 1983.

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                                                                                                                                                                          As well as being illuminating in its own right, this study assists with an understanding of Alessandra’s tax affairs.

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