Obey and Applaud

Thomas Cohen

  • Information and Communication in Venice: Rethinking Early Modern Politics by Filippo de Vivo
    Oxford, 312 pp, £60.00, October 2007, ISBN 978 0 19 922706 8

In 1617, Ottaviano Bon went to France as one of two Venetian ambassadors charged with negotiating a peace with the Habsburg archdukes of Graz. Having made concessions beyond their instructions, both envoys were censured on their return to Venice. The next year the two men prepared official reports, or relazioni, justifying their conduct in the name of high principles of statecraft. Then Bon, in violation of the state’s rules, leaked his apologia to members of his family, who passed copies to sympathetic backers around the city. The document spread out of control, and so did the rumours about it. Around the leak, Filippo de Vivo writes, a ‘thick web of oral communication’ sprang up among people who never saw the relazione on paper. The subsequent trial for leaking secrets uncovered some of the routes by which Bon’s apologia spread, and Information and Communication in Venice lays out an elegant flow chart displaying the movement of the news.

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