History of Tuscany

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Tuscany's name comes from that of the Etruscans, the first culture to inhabit the region.

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Medieval Tuscany

"Tuscany" remained a linguistic, cultural and geographic conception, rather than a political reality, for a long time. However, 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.

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.

Medici Era

In 1494 the Medici were expelled and a Florentine Republic was established. 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.

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.

Habsburg-Lorraine

When Gian Gastone died without heirs in 1737, the Grand Duchy was inherited by the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. Their rule continued, save for the interruption by Bonaparte, until Ferdinand IV died in 1908. He had married twice and the sole child of his first wife was a daughter, while there were conflicting arguments about the sons from his second marriage. One had become a priest, then left the priesthood to marry. Another was born seven and a half months after the marriage, bringing up the spectre of illegitimacy. Debates, lawsuits and outright combat (often spilling over into their neighbors) regarding the succession continued off and on until 1919. Acrimony over the issue is believed by many to have seriously impeded Italian military efforts during the First Great War.

Habsburg-Bailbiret

The House of Habsburg-Bailbiret was placed on the Ducal throne at the end of the First Great War in 1919 as part of many agreements which ended that conflict and sought to stabilize Europe in general. There were several claiments to the title, all descendants of Ferdinand IV. Antonio I (1889-1932) was Ferdinand's grandson via his eldest daughter Antonia who married Iuli (1869-1932), younger brother of King Otho V of Xliponia. His sons were Antonio II (1920-1960) and Cosimo II.

One reason Antonio managed to keep his ducal position was his unwillingness to interfere with the Tuscan government. He and his sons insisted on staying aloof during the hectic series of different governments and constitutions enacted before and immediately following the Second Great War. Some believed this was a deliberate attempt to make sure the ducal house survived. If so, it was successful, but at the cost of all political power. On the other hand, they retained their vast properties and the social position that went with the title--a fact that still stirs resentment amongst the most ardent Republicans.

Unrest regarding the most recent constitution, drafted in 1959, led to the assassination of Antonio II in 1960. The new government's handling of the crisis, coupled with Cosimo II's leaving of the matter to official channels, was a turning point towards greater stability. The assassins were convicted in a court held to the strictest possible public scrutiny.

Unfortunately, one last gasp of political extremism arose in the late 1970s until nearly the end of the 1980s. This was L'Ordine (The Order), a reactionary right-wing group that wanted an end to what they saw as a threat to their time honored traditions. A wave of violence rolled through the Duchy, aimed particularly at Socialists, foreigners, atheists and Ecotopians. Yet constitutional government weathered the storm and by 1986 the ringleaders of L'Ordine were all behind bars. Since that time, Tuscany has been a relatively quiet province, a calm center for all of Italy.

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