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Archaeology and History

Photo of Dr Fabrizio Ansani

Dr Fabrizio Ansani

British Academy Newton International Fellow


I am interested in all the aspects of Italian Renaissance warfare, with a particular focus on arms procurement, war business, and military entrepreneurship. Above all, my research analyzes the early modern developments in logistics to reassess the impact of conflicts on fifteenth-century society, state building, and material culture.

At present I am completing my first monograph, a study centered on the provision of warhorses and its related economic policies. As a British Academy Newton International Fellow, I am also working on tracing the medieval origins of raw materials diplomacy by concentrating on the procurement of another irreplaceable asset of the late medieval and early modern period, that is, saltpeter, the primary component of gunpowder.

I have also investigated other significant aspects of the late medieval warfare, such as the institution of permanent offices, the formation of military archives, and the contemporary narrations of wars, publishing numerous articles in both international (Technology and Culture, The Journal of Military History, The Journal of Medieval Military History, European History Quarterly, Business History) and national journals (Archivio Storico Italiano, Reti Medievali Rivista, Società e Storia). In my last contribution I have examined Lorenzo de' Medici's career as a military entrepreneur and the birth of the contractor state in Renaissance Florence.

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Current projects:

As a British Academy Newton International Fellowship, I am now working on a project entitled The medieval origins of raw materials diplomacy. Saltpeter trade between Italy and England in the late fifteenth century. The main goal of this project is to completely revise the dynamics of late medieval war economy. It aims at a reinterpretation of strategic raw materials as marketable goods, providing a review of their commercial viability and business performance, trade regulations and incentive structures.

Completed projects:

During my term at the Università degli Studi di Padova I was the principal investigator of the departmental project “War material or raw material? State intervention and business interests in the late medieval Sicilian saltpeter trade”. The grant allowed me to start my research on the nitrate, giving me the opportunity to access and investigate the financial records of the Aragonese Viceroyalty kept in the State Archives of Palermo. I also spent part of the research funding to collect substantial data on the fifteenth-century market for the island’s warhorses.

In 2021 I started publishing my research findings. In “Artiglieria e diplomazia. Esportazioni di salnitro e problemi di munizionamento nella corrispondenza degli oratori italiani del Quattrocento” I discussed the different approaches adopted by resident ambassadors and informal agents to the procurement of the rare mineral, restating - from an economic perspective – the intimate connections between diplomatic activities and war preparations in the era of the balance of power. In “A ‘magnificent’ military entrepreneur? The involvement of the Medici Bank in the arms trade (1482-1494)”, I demonstrated the involvement of Medici Bank in the fifteenth-century saltpeter trade by focussing on the cooperation between state administration and capitalist elites in supplying the materiel indispensable to early modern armies.

Between 2018 and 2020, under the aegis of the Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Storici, I worked on “Le istituzioni militari della Repubblica Fiorentina, 1384-1499”. I carried out an extensive comparative analysis of the military offices of Renaissance Italy, developing a solid book project on the development of fiscal-military magistracies during the fourteenth and the fifteenth century. I also published six peer-reviewed articles on both national and international journals, expanding my expertise on the origins of the iconography of Italian condottieri, the material and visual culture of the Neapolitan Aragonese commonwealth, and the diplomatic negotiations over armaments procurement between the major courts of Peninsula.


In Press

  • Fabrizio Ansani. Il cavallo da guerra e lo stato del Rinascimento. Logistica militare, politiche economiche, conflitti sociali. Bologna, Il Mulino.
  • Fabrizio Ansani. La mediazione degli ambasciatori nel commercio degli armamenti. Una diversa prospettiva sul carteggio degli oratori mantovani alla corte sforzesca. In «Tempi e costi della diplomazia urbana. Atti delle giornate di studio. Trieste, 10-11 Dicembre 2019»
  • Fabrizio Ansani. Le conseguenze economiche dell’innovazione bellica. La produzione di “artiglierie alla francese” a Firenze tra Quattro e Cinquecento. In «L’economia della conoscenza. Innovazione, produttiva e crescita economica. Atti della LIII Settimana di Studi dell’Istituto Internazionale di Storia Economica “Francesco Datini”. Prato, 8-11 Maggio 2022»
  • Fabrizio AnsaniItalian masters of Renaissance artillery. In «Routledge Resources Online – The Renaissance World»
  • Fabrizio AnsaniA ‘magnificent’ military entrepreneur? The involvement of the Medici Bank in the arms trade (1482-1494). In «Business History»
  • Fabrizio Ansani. Oltre i signori, dopo i mercenari. Per una rilettura del rapporto tra istituzioni militari e stato rinascimentale. In «Annali dell’Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Storici», 33
  • Fabrizio Ansani, Clifford J. Rogers. The earliest European recipe for ‘powder for guns’ and three other misunderstood or unremarked recipes of the fourteenth century. In «The Journal of Medieval Military History», 19
  • Fabrizio Ansani. Artiglieria e diplomazia. Esportazioni di salnitro e problemi di munizionamento nella corrispondenza degli oratori italiani del Quattrocento. In «Società e Storia», 171
  • Fabrizio AnsaniImitazione, adattamento, appropriazione. Tecnologia e tattica delle artiglierie ‘minute’ nell’Italia del Quattrocento. In «Nuova Antologia Militare», 5
  • Fabrizio Ansani, Jan Verheyen. La berretta del condottiero. Alle origini di un’iconografia quattrocentesca. In «Predella. Journal of Visual Arts», 47-48
  • Fabrizio AnsaniTra necessità bellica ed innovazione tecnologica. La formazione dei ‘maestri di polvere’ fiorentini nel Quattrocento. In «Mélanges de l'École française de Rome. Italie et Méditerranée modernes et contemporaines», 131
  • Fabrizio AnsaniSupplying the army. 1499. The siege of Pisa. In «The Journal of Medieval Military History», 18
  • Fabrizio Ansani. L’immagine della forza. Il ‘libro degli armamenti’ di Ferrante d’Aragona. In «Archivio Storico per le Province Napoletane», 137
  • Fabrizio AnsaniSupplying the army. 1498. The Florentine campaign in the Pisan countryside. In «The Journal of Medieval Military History», 17
  • Fabrizio Ansani‘This French artillery is very good and very effective’. Hypotheses on the diffusion of a new military technology in Renaissance Italy. In «The Journal of Military History», 83, 2
  • Fabrizio AnsaniMilitary archives of Renaissance Florence. Resolutions and bookkeeping of the Dieci di Balìa and the Otto di Pratica. In «European History Quarterly», 48, 3
  • Fabrizio Ansani. ‘Per infinite sperientie’. I maestri dell’artiglieria nell’Italia del Quattrocento. In «Reti Medievali Rivista», 18, 2
  • Fabrizio AnsaniThe life of a Renaissance gunmaker. Bonaccorso Ghiberti and the development of Florentine artillery in the late fifteenth century. In «Technology and Culture», 58, 3
  • Fabrizio AnsaniGeografie della Guerra nella Toscana del Rinascimento. Produzione di armi e circolazione dei pratici. In «Archivio Storico Italiano», 651
  • Fabrizio Ansani. Craftsmen, artillery, and war production in Renaissance Florence. In «Vulcan. The International Journal of the Social History of Military Technology», 4

Research collaborations

Recent seminar and conference papers:


  • Lavoratori e mercenari. Riscoprire, ridefinire e ricontestualizzare il «military labour» nell’Italia del Rinascimento. Roma, “L’Apprendistato dello Storico V”


  • Le conseguenze economiche dell’innovazione bellica. La produzione di «artiglierie alla francese» a Firenze tra Quattro e Cinquecento. Prato, San Miniato, “LIII Settimana di Studi dell’Istituto Internazionale di Storia Economica ‘Francesco Datini’”
  • The bombard and the book. The material culture of gunpowder artillery in Renaissance Naples. Online Event, “New Voices in the History of War IV”
  • Saltpeter trade in late medieval Mediterranean. Some reflections. Online Event, “Society for the Medieval Mediterranean Second Webinar Series”


  • Italian imitations of French ordnance. An artillery revolution, or a logistical problem? Prague, “16th Annual Symposium on the Social History of Military Technology”, in the “26th International Congress of History of Science and Technology”

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I welcome inquiries from students interested in the history of Renaissance Italy. I would also be glad to discuss proposals with prospective students who aim at researching the intersections of military and economic history. And please do reach out to me by email if you have an idea for a project on the material wolrd of the late medieval period and the early modern age.

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External impact and engagement

My findings on fifteteenth-century artillery technology have been published in popular magazines such as Medieval Warfare and Medieval World. Culture and Conflict.

More recently, I have been invited by the editors of the Routldege Encyclopedia of the Renaissance World to contribute an entry on Italian Renaissance gunmakers.

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I earned my Ph.D. cum laude in Early Modern History from the Università degli Studi di Padova, where I studied the innovations in and the transfer of artillery technology in Renaissance Florence. The Premio di Cultura “Aurelio Marcantoni” – a prize for the best doctoral thesis on Tuscan history – was conferred on my dissertation by the Società Storica Aretina.

After being awarded a two-year postdoctoral fellowship by the Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Storici, I returned to my alma mater to conduct research on the logistical challenge of fifteenth-century permanent armies and the material culture of gunpowder weapons. During the term, I was also the principal investigator for a departmental project on the late medieval saltpeter trade. The interest in the diplomacy of strategic commodities finally led me to a successful application for a British Academy Newton International Fellowship.

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