SECRET SERVICES IN THE AGE OF THE MOST SERENE REPUBLIC

“I servizi segreti in Europa ai tempi della Serenissima” (“Secret services in Europe in the age of the most serene Republic of Venice”) – a lecture by Prof. Marco Zanetto.

Much like that of diplomacy, the world that revolves around state secret services finds its origins in the Most Serene Republic in the first half of the fifteenth century. Indeed, it was in 1449 that the thorny question was first tackled by the famous Council of Ten, working under the supervision of the Senate. The Venetians would be copied by the Spanish, with their Simancas archives – a vital resource for historians – while in France Charles VII’s “Ordonnances” from the same period have much to say about the interest precipitated by the example of the Venetians. The Austrians, with their “Black Chamber”, were not far behind, nor indeed were the Jesuits, whose great influence was felt in Venice itself, much to the growing concern of The Ten. Struggles and intrigues of various sorts unravel from the sixteenth century onwards. As we will see, the Palace of the Doge found itself in the midst of the action in this area of civil life. Indeed, from the sorry episode of the stabbing of Fra’ Paolo Sarpi and the Bedmar conspiracy to the messages intercepted by Joseph du Tremblay and Antoine Rossignol, the “raccordi” (secret letters) of Venice will always be keeping watch.  

Discussion led by Prof. Marco Zanetto.

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