• Project Aims and Objectives(1)

      INTELLIGENCE ORGANISATION IN THE EARLY MODERN WORLD

      Challenge the widely accepted view of systemised intelligence

  • PROJECT AIMS

    The project’s aim is to challenge the widely accepted view that systemised intelligence is a modern political trait. Instead, it examines the history of organised intelligence from an economic perspective, postulating the thesis that systemised intelligence, at least in a commercially dominant state like early modern Venice, was primarily developed to protect economic interests.

    It is not accidental, therefore, that the Venetians ‘smuggled’ intelligence on European affairs to their enemy, the Ottomans, during the First (1499-1503) and Second (1537-1540) Ottoman-Venetian War, as the ‘secret’ registers of the Council of Ten reveal. They did so, to ensure that the Sultan would not impose impeding commercial restrictions on them. Nor is it irrelevant that revealing ‘state secrets’ of thriving Venetian industries, like glassmaking, was a crime punishable by the death in the floating city.

    On a micro-level, research for the project analyses and compares early modern Venice’s centrally administered intelligence apparatus with the clandestine networks of other Italian and European states, like Milan, Mantua, Rome, England, France, Spain and the Ottoman Empire. There, intelligence served the private interests of powerful individuals, unlike Venice’s centralised intelligence. On a macro-level, it opens up the landscape of historical exploration by examining a) the historical development of organisation both an entity and as a process; and b) the nature of an early modern state’s knowledge culture beyond the political and intellectual spheres.

    PROJECT OBJECTIVES

    • To explore the time-specific meaning and functions of intelligence in a society and for a state that were so different from those in which modern intelligence operates. Or were they not that different?
    • To challenge the widely accepted view that systemised intelligence and state-organised security are characteristic of the modern state, developed to serve military-political purposes. Instead, focusing on early modern Venice’s acute commercial and business acumen, I examine the history of organised intelligence from an economic perspective, postulating the thesis that systemised intelligence, at least in a commercially dominant state like Venice, was primarily developed to protect economic interests.
    • To contest conventional wisdom that ascribes historical meaning only to those organisational entities that operated in eras when rationality and technological advancement had been established as the leading drivers of modern economy and society. Instead, I aim to uncover the social processes that generated organisation and management in the pre-industrial world, by revealing a complex proto-modern organisation whose managerial structure was premised on public bureaucracy – in fact, it generated the latter.
    • Ultimately, I aim to argue that the phenomenon of organisation, both as an entity and as a process, was conceived and given meaning in the emerging state bureaucracies of the pre-industrial era that hosted the first age of globalisation.