Agents of Empire
Spanish Ambassadors in Sixteenth-Century Italy
Historians have long held that during the decades from the end of the Habsburg-Valois Wars in 1559 until the outbreak in 1618 of the Thirty Years' War, Spanish domination of Italy was so complete that one can refer to the period as a "pax hispanica." In this book, based on extensive research in the papers of the ambassadors who represented Charles V and Philip II, Michael J. Levin instead reveals the true fragility of Spanish control and the ambiguous nature of its impact on Italian political and cultural life.
While exploring the nature and weaknesses of Spanish imperialism in the sixteenth century, Levin focuses on the activities of Spain's emissaries in Rome and Venice, drawing us into a world of intrigue and occasional violence as the Spaniards attempted to manipulate the crosscurrents of Italian and papal politics to serve their own ends. Levin's often-colorful account uncovers the vibrant world of late Renaissance diplomacy in which popes were forced to flee down secret staircases and ambassadors too often only narrowly avoided assassination. An important contribution to our understanding of the nature and limits of the Spanish imperial system, Agents of Empire more broadly highlights the centrality of diplomatic history to any consideration of the politics of empire.