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History of Tuscany

Medici Rule and the Fall of the Republic

The Medici family, long one of the most important families in Florence, and by extension Tuscany, were able to transform the Republic of Florence into a Ducal State ruled by a hereditary succession in the 16th century. For most of that century they ruled Florence and Tuscany quite successfully, expanding the state's territory greatly by acquiring Siena. The Medici were patrons of science and the arts which flowered for much of their reign. Tuscany became a more cohesive and unified state during these years, rather than simply the dominion of a dominating city (Florence). Tuscany under Medici rule, which lasted until 1737, was transformed in a number of ways, not always positively. Most importantly, the economy of Tuscany underwent a fundamental change in character. The wool industry was decimated during these years, though the silk industry was, to some extent, able to replace it. None the less, industry, which had shaped and sustained Florence since the middle ages, began to decline throughout the 17th century. Investment in business became less lucrative and there was some “re-feudalization” of the Tuscan state with many patricians investing in land instead of industry. Florence was generally agreed to have declined greatly by the early 18th century, and a series of bad rulers led to a take over by the Holy Roman Empire of the once fine independent state of Tuscany after the Medici dynasty died out.

Notes for a skeleton outline for the History of Tuscany.

Though 'Tuscany' remained a linguistic, cultural and geographic conception, rather than a political reality, in the 15th Century, Florence extended dominion in Tuscany through the purchase of Pisa in 1405 and the suppression of a local resistance there (1406). Livorno was bought in as well (1421). Siena was more resistant. The Sienese commune was not incorporated into Tuscany until 1555, and during the 15th Century Siena enjoyed a cultural 'Sienese Renaissance' with its own more conservative character.

Nevertheless, during the domination by the Medici family (1434-1494), beginning with Cosimo de' Medici (1434-1464), 'Florence' acted for 'Tuscany.' Without a title, usually without even a formal office, Cosimo and his heirs enjoyed the powers and prestige of virtual princes and presided over the Florentine Renaissance.

The Medici were expelled in 1494 and a Florentine Republic was established (cf Savonarola). The Medici were restored in 1512 and expelled a second time, when a republic was re-established. In 1530 Charles V appointed Alessandro de' Medici hereditary ruler. Cosimo de' Medici became duke in 1537, Siena was incorporated into Tuscany, and Florence became the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1569. Cosimo died in 1574.