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Business and Management
Oxford Brookes Business School
+44 (0) 1865 485408
CLC.G.14, Clerici Building, Headington Campus
Venice's Secret Service is the untold and arresting story of the world's earliest centrally-organised state intelligence service. Long before the inception of SIS and the CIA, in the period of the Renaissance, the Republic of Venice had masterminded a remarkable centrally-organised state intelligence organisation that played a pivotal role in the defence of the Venetian empire. Housed in the imposing Doge's Palace and under the direction of the Council of Ten, the notorious governmental committee that acted as Venice's spy chiefs, this 'proto-modern' organisation served prominent intelligence functions including operations (intelligence and covert action), analysis, cryptography and steganography, cryptanalysis, and even the development of lethal substances. Official informants and amateur spies were shipped across Europe, Anatolia, and Northern Africa, conducting Venice's stealthy intelligence operations. Revealing a plethora of secrets, their keepers, and their seekers, Venice's Secret Service explores the social and managerial processes that enabled their existence and that furnished the foundation for an extraordinary intelligence organisation created by one of the early modern world's most cosmopolitan states.
The labouring classes of early modern Venice, the popolani, made up nearly ninety per cent of the city’s population. Historiography to this point has focused almost exclusively on their professional and civic role. It is the core contention of this article that the contribution of the popolani to Venetian economy and society far exceeded their documented professional and civic function. Using as a case study the homogenous group of the shipbuilders and sailors of Venice and drawing on newly-discovered primary sources from the Venetian State Archives, this article will show the distinct contributions of the popolani to the city’s economy and society through their charity to those in need. This took form in their sizeable dotal and charitable donations within and beyond the family. In one of the first attempts to explore the philanthropy of the lower classes, this article challenges the existing scholarly view that charity was the sole responsibility of the government and the nobility in early modern Venice. It further shows that marriage was not merely a financial union for the popolani; it was a sanctuary for lasting companionship. Ultimately, the article offers a fresh vista onto the socio-economic role of the popolani in early modern Venice.
This article explores one of the earliest centrally organized state intelligence services in world history. Contrary to the orthodoxy that sees systematized intelligence as a modern political phenomenon, this was developed in early modern Venice. The article reveals the complex organization of Venetian systemized intelligence that distinguished it from other contemporaneous states’ espionage networks. It also shows how Venetian authorities commodified intelligence by engaging citizens and subjects in a trade of information for mutual benefits. Ultimately, the article challenges our understanding of early modern political communication and offers a fresh vista of intelligence as a business trait and economic necessity.
This chapter is based on educating UK Undergraduate Business School students with the opportunities afforded by an Open Space Learning (OSL) environment. Our use of the Arts-based Intervention (ABI) of physical performance challenges normative Business School pedagogy that has been claimed to reduce students to becoming “voracious copy machines” (Beghetto and Kauffman 2009, p. 300).
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