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Crime and Punishment in Renaissance Florence

  • Marvin E. Wolfgang
Chapter

Abstract

This paper centers attention on available records that best reflect the sentiments and behavioral manifestations of those sentiments concerned with the treatment of criminal offenders in Florence, Italy, during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Florence is regarded as the birthplace of the Renaissance spirit, and the history of punishment there in this period has basic relevance to the development of methods dealing with persons who committed crimes. Many of the historical details which this study contains are reasonably well known, others are new or newly uncovered. The sociological implications of these details are less widely recognized. The view that crime and punishment of any period are not divorced from their social and cultural context is commonplace, but there are few empirical studies of this relationship. In general terms, this paper is an empirical examination of the genesis and development of some of the cultural values which underlie the social reaction to crime during the Early Renaissance in Florence.ii

Keywords

Supra Note Seventeenth Century Corporal Punishment Historical Document Fifteenth Century 
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Notes

  1. ii.
    In this introductory statement, adapted to the topic under discussion, we have made use of Robert K. Merton’s carefully stated qualifications, found in his study, “Science, Technology and Society in Seventeenth Century England.” See Merton, Science Technology and Society in Seventeenth Century England, IV OSIRIS 360 (1938).Google Scholar
  2. Some specific details of the present topic may be found in Wolfgang, Political Crimes and Punishments in Renaissance Florence,44 J. GRIM. L., CRIMINOLOGY & POLICE SCI. 555 (1954), and Wolfgang, Socio-Economic Factors Related to Crime and Punishment in Renaissance Florence,47 J. GRIM. L., CRIMINOLOGY & POLICE SCI. 311 (1956).Google Scholar
  3. The idea that thought patterns are relative conditions arising out of the cultural and historical climate of a given area and time has been eloquently expressed by Louis Gottschalk. See Gottschalk, The Historian and the Historical Document,in THE USE of PERSONAL DOCUMENTS IN HISTORY, ANTHROPOLOGY AND SOCIOLOGY 3 (Soc. Sci. Res. Council Bull. No. 53, 1945). Historicism, he suggests, “insists upon the relation of ideas to historical circumstances (including other ideas); it maintains that ideas are only ‘reflex functions of the sociological conditions under which they arose.’ ” Id. at 25.Google Scholar
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    J. Gillin, Criminology and Penology 9(1945).Google Scholar
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    For a succinct discussion of the problems of historical analysis, especially problems of constructing hypotheses in a sociological study of history, see THE SOCIAL SCIENCES IN HISTORICAL STUDY: A REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON HISTORIOGRAPHY 66105 (Soc. Sci. Res. Council Bull. No. 64, 1954); Mandelbaum, History and the Social Sciences: Social Facts, in THEORIES OF HISTORY 476–88 (P. Gardiner ed. 1959).Google Scholar
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    Wolfgang, A Florentine Prison: Le Carceri delle Stinche, in VII STUDIES IN THE RENAISSANCE 161–62 (1960).Google Scholar
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    Niccolo Tommaseo and Bernardo Bellini suggest: “Altri forse dal ted. Stengel, gambale, peddle, tronco, o dal celt. gall. Stang, stecco brocco.” (“Others, perhaps from the German, Stengel: leggings, pedals, trunk; or from the Celtic Gallic, Stang: dry twig.”) IV N. TOMMASEO SC B. BELLINI, DIZIONARIO DELLA LINGUA ITALIANA 1216 (1872). Nicola Zingarelli gives the root as a fusion of the Longobardian skinko and of stecco. N. ZINGARELLI, VOCABOLARIO DELLA LINGUA ITALIANA 1587 (1957). It should be recalled that the Lombards were one of the Teutonic tribes that invaded and settled in the Po Valley between 568 and 774.Google Scholar
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    IV N. TOMMASEO EC B. BELLINI, DIZIONARIO DELLA LINGUA ITALIANA 1216 (1872).Google Scholar
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    The name Le Stinche was applied first to the castle of the noble Cavalcanti family, then to the city prison, and presently only to a small Florentine street. Pareto’s reference to non-logical action represented in “residues of aggregates,” or, combinations once made tend to persist regardless of changes in time and space dimensions, provides an interesting theoretical framework for analysis of the etymology of Le Stinche. See V. PARETO, MIND AND SOCIETY 11, 64–65 (A. Livingston trans. 1935).Google Scholar
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    There is no treatise on penology in English that mentions Le Stinche, except a brief reference by John Howard, the English penal reformer, who visited the prison in the eighteenth century. See J. HOWARD, THE STATE OF THE PRISONS IN ENGLAND AND WALES 108 (1792).Google Scholar
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    For a careful description of this episode, see, e.g., P. VILLARI, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI 1 I, 32–33 (1878).Google Scholar
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    A brief composite of documentary references to the torture of Machiavelli may be found in Wolfgang, Political Crimes and Punishments in Renaissance Florence, 44 J. CRIM. L., CRIMINOLOGY & POLICE SCI. 555, 566–67 (1954).Google Scholar
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    Although the state archives of Florence contain reference to a provision passed by the Consiglio de’ Cento for construction of the prison on March 12, 1297 (Provvisioni, Archivo di Stato di Firenze,8, c. 51), the earliest records of the prison itself unfortunately were destroyed in the siege of the institution in 1343 during the popular overthrow of the government of the Duke of Athens. Consequently, there are no documents of commitments to the prison in 1304 when the first prisoners were housed there. The earliest date found among the commitment records of the Archivio Belle Stinche is for October 16, 1343 (“Inventario dei Magistrato dei Soprastanti alle Stinche’).Google Scholar
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    Becker, Culture Case Study and Greek History: Comparison Viewed Sociologically, 23 AM. Soc. REV. 489, 490 (1958) (citing M. WEBER, GESAMMELTE AUFSATZE ZUR SOZIAL UND WIRTSCHAFTSGESCHICHTE 280 (1924)).Google Scholar
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    Gottschalk, The Historian and the Historical Document,in THE USE OF PERSONAL Documents IN HISTORY, ANTHROPOLOGY AND SOCIOLOGY 15–27 (Soc. Sci. Res. Council Bull. No. 53,1945).Google Scholar
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    debt of gratitude is due Professor Gino Corti, Florentine archivist, for his paleographic assistance. Professor Corti is as known as the chief paleographer contributing to 1. ORIGO, THE MERCHANT OF PRATO (1957).Google Scholar
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    U. DORINI, IL DIRITTO PENALE E LA DELINQUENZA IN FIRENZE NEL SECOLO XIV (1916) [hereinafter U. DORINI].Google Scholar
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    Opere di Francesco Berni 148–49 (1887).Google Scholar
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    F, SACCHETTI, IL TRECENTONOVELLE (1956).Google Scholar
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    It would be impossible to list here the histories of Florence that present in detail substantially the summary material used in this section. Any standard social history of the city is recommended; of particular value is F. SCHEVILL, A HISTORY OF FLORENCE FROM THE FOUNDING OF THE CITY THROUGH THE RENAISSANCE ( 1936 ). Perhaps one of the most authoritive histories is R. DAVIDSOHN, FORSCHUNGEN ZUR GESCHICHTE VON FLORENZ (1908).Google Scholar
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    Three balls symbolized the Medici family.Google Scholar
  30. xxix.
    A. VON MARTIN, SOZIOLOGIE DER RENAISSANCE (1992); A. VON MARTIN, SOCIOLOGY OF THE RENAISSANCE (w. Luetkens trans. 1944 ) [hereinafter A. VON MARTIN, SOCIOLOGY].Google Scholar
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  32. xxxi.
    E. DURKHEIM, DIVISION OF LABOR IN SOCIETY (G. Simpson trans. 1964 ).Google Scholar
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    G. RUSCHE & O. KIRCHHEIMER, PUNISHMENT AND SOCIAL STRUCTURE 62–71 (1939).Google Scholar
  34. xxxiii.
    For the Amsterdam Houses of Correction, see T. SELLIN, PIONEERING IN PENOLOGY (1944); for those in England, see Van der Slice, Elizabethan Houses of Correction, 27 J. CRIM. L. & CRIMINOLOGY 45 (1936).Google Scholar
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    Sellin, Filippo Franci A Precursor of Modern Penology,17 J. CRIM. L. & CRIMINOLOGY 104, 107–09 (1926).Google Scholar
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    Sellin, The House of Correction for Boys in the Hospice of St. Michael in Rome, 20 J. CRIM. L. & CRIMINOLOGY 533 (1950).Google Scholar
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    See, e.g., U. DORINI, supra note 20; M. BELTRANI-SCALIA, supra note 22, at 24Google Scholar
  39. xxxviii.
    Becker, Culture Case Study and Greek History: Comparison Vowed Sociologically, 23 Am. Soc. REV. 489 (1958).Google Scholar
  40. xxxix.
    This statement is an adaptation of an earlier assertion in a different context found in Merton, Science Technology and Society in Seventeenth Century England,IV OSIRIS 360, 414 (1938).Google Scholar
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    P. Schrecker, WORK AND HISTORY (1948). See especially Schrecker’s Chapter XIII, “On Patterns, and the Influence of Knowledge on Their Function.” Id. at 151.Google Scholar
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    A. HAUSER, THE SOCIAL HISTORY OF ART 11, 24 (1957).Google Scholar
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    A. VON MARTIN, SOCIOLOGY, supra note 28, at 17.Google Scholar
  44. xliii.
    Id at 15 (citing A. ALBERTI, DELLA FAMILGLIA 137 (Mancini ed. n.d.)).Google Scholar
  45. xliv.
    Id. at 15 (citing G. SIMMEL, PHILOSOPHIE DES GELDES (n.d.)). General use is made of von Martin’s sociological approach in this section.Google Scholar
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    Cf. C. CIPOLLA, CLOCKS AND CULTURE, 1300–1700 ( 1967.Google Scholar
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    A. VON MARTIN, SOCIOLOGY, supra note 28, at 86.Google Scholar
  48. xlvii.
    Wolfgang, Political Crimes and Punishments in Renaissance Florence, 44 J. CRIM. L CRIMINOLOGY & POLICE Scf. 555 (1954).Google Scholar
  49. xlviii.
    A. VON MARTIN, SOCIOLOGY, supra note 28, at 21 (citing G. SIMMEL, PHILOSOPHI DES GELDES (n:d.)).Google Scholar
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    A. VON MARTIN, SOCIOLOGY, supra note 28, at 21–22.Google Scholar
  51. l.
    J. BURCKHARDT, THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY (1954).Google Scholar
  52. li.
    A. HAUSER, THE PHILOSOPHY OF ART HISTORY 275–76 (1959).Google Scholar
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    A. HAUSER, THE SOCIAL HISTORY OF ART 10 (1957).Google Scholar
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    Id. at 15.Google Scholar
  55. liv.
    As summarized by A. VON MARTIN, SOCIOLOGY, supra note 28, at 37–38.Google Scholar
  56. lv.
    See supra notes 35 and 31, respectively.Google Scholar
  57. lvi.
    lvi D, GUCCERELLI, STRADARIO STORICO DELLA CITTA DI FIRENZE 258–59 (1928)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marvin E. Wolfgang
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PennsylvaniaUSA

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