Hope Greenberg
History 300
Daily Questions: July 9,1993

1) What factors in France and Italy inspired Charles VIII's invasion of Italy in 1494?

Do societies and events develop in amazingly fortuitous ways or do historians simply enjoy the proverbial "20/20 hindsight" when casting their eyes on the happenings of the past? Whichever the case, the combination of events that led to the French invasion of 1494 could hardly have come together more completely if they had been planned that way. The recovery of France after the Hundred Years War due in no small part to the machinations of Louis XI in not only gaining control over the other powerful nobles of France but also in managing to finance this control through the taille, made France a power to be reckoned with. The fact that he left this monarchy to an incompetant ruler should have nullified this increase in power. Unfortunately as far as the future of the Italian states was concerned, it did no such thing.

The intricate and ever-shifting political field in Italy made it a ripe target for France. As the governments of the communes devolved more and more to individual families and as these families gained more power, the focus for rivalries intensified. As each state gained in power neighboring states would develop alliances and employ condottiere to try to forcefully wrest that power or at least keep rival states at bay. Thus, Florence and Venice at one point were aligned againts the papacy, but later, under Lorenzo, abandoned the pact with Venice for an alliance with Naples. Milan, held tenuously by Ludovico Sforza was suffering from incursions by the powerful Venice. Naples remained in the turmoil that had clouded its history for years.

With urging from Sforza attempting to bolster his position, with restless nobles in France looking for chinks in their monarch's position, with little or no resistance from Naples whose leaders decamped without a fight, with the active help of Piero de' Medici of Florence, who, losing the power held by his predecessors, tried to save his own position by negotiating, and, to fulfill whatever dreams of glory, conquest, and tenuous right of inheritance his admittedly weak mind had conjured up, Charles VIII swept through Italy with a force of amazing, and as it turned out, unnecessary strength, to have himself crowned King of Naples.

This file is part of Hope Greenberg's Graduate Portfolio for the course History 300. Created 15 October 1996.