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An early united Italy, directions of expansion?
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Rob
2017-06-07 23:10:18 UTC
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First of all, I commend to everybody the recent and ongoing TL: The Iron Serpent: A Visconti Italy timeline. [only on AH.com, pre-1900 forum]

That said, sometimes, I like to expand on things just for discussions sake and go further ahead by a century or more, which genuine TLs often take a very long time to get to if they get there at

So, what would the age of exploration and the modern era look like for an early unified Italy.

I'd have to say that a unified Visconti Italy is my favorite at this point because its early enough to make Italy a strong power during the age of exploration but late enough that the renaissance has started and recognizable Italian culture and language is coming into being.

So, a unified Visconti Italy could come in many sizes, as a state encompassing Italy west of Venice and north of Rome and Umbria, or a larger state containing one or all of the Papal States, Venice or Naples-Sicily.

With a unified Italy in the 1400s and 1500s, how is its power position going to compare with the HRE, Spain and France? If sufficiently powerful, what would be the directions of expansion beyond Italy that you would consider least implausible to most implausible.

A few ideas here:

1) Italy gets in on the Atlantic: Yes Italy is in the Med and not directly on the Atlantic seaboard, but despite Italy being on the wrong side of Gibraltar, it is not like those straits are super tight or easily commanded by 15th and 16th century artillery making blockade likely or even feasible. So, conceivably Italy could horn in on areas where the Portuguese and Spanish (and their unification is not guaranteed) ventured in OTL either around the Cape or west to the Americas.

2) Italy takes Venice and becomes super-Venice: Basically anything the Venetians got historically in the eastern Med, is controlled by united Italy, in a bigger longer way, so Albania, Greece, Cyprus, the Aegean islands. Really sank up the Italian state, maybe they are a major territorial contender over the whole Balkans

3) Italy goes for the cash and capital: Italy after unifying starts its own version of the 100 Years War and seeks to dominate the prosperous lands of Burgundy, Lotharingia and the Netherlands, the richest parts of western Europe. Instead of a "Spanish Road" to the Netherlands, there is an Italian road, and Italian soldiers, bureaucrats and flags follow the traders who earlier first expanding their banking and other enterprises to Antwerp and the Low Countries.

Naturally this state would be permanent enemies of France and the HRE (or if the Visconti become the HREs they have a lot of resisting enemies in the German portion) but this could be interesting.

Thoughts?
Pete Barrett
2017-06-08 19:06:42 UTC
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Post by Rob
1) Italy gets in on the Atlantic: Yes Italy is in the Med and not directly
on the Atlantic seaboard, but despite Italy being on the wrong side of
Gibraltar, it is not like those straits are super tight or easily
commanded by 15th and 16th century artillery making blockade likely or
even feasible. So, conceivably Italy could horn in on areas where the
Portuguese and Spanish (and their unification is not guaranteed) ventured
in OTL either around the Cape or west to the Americas.
All true, but it's also notable that OTL the countries in the first wave of
colonial expansion (Spain, Portugal), and the second wave (France, Holland,
England/Britain) all had Atlantic coasts, while no powers without them
(Ottomans, Sweden, Poland-Lithuania, Denmark (Denmark's main ports are
mostly on the Baltic) - leaving aside land-locked powers such as Bavaria and
Bohemia) were at all active colonisers. (Some did have a few colonies, but
on nothing like the same scale.)

Is that relevant? I don't know; nor does anyone else. You point out that
it's not theoretically necessary to have harbours on the Atlantic, and
that's true; and yet they didn't. It might be that the possession of an
Atlantic coast with good harbours orientates the country in that direction,
while lake of it inhibits it, making it probable, if not certain, that
countries with Atlantic coasts will become colonial powers, while those
without will not.

But if it is so, then Visconti Italy is less likely to get in on the
colonialism racket.
Post by Rob
2) Italy takes Venice and becomes super-Venice: Basically anything the
Venetians got historically in the eastern Med, is controlled by united
Italy, in a bigger longer way, so Albania, Greece, Cyprus, the Aegean
islands. Really sank up the Italian state, maybe they are a major
territorial contender over the whole Balkans
This, I think, is most likely. I assume we're including Genoa, if not
Venice, and Genoa had commercial interests in Constantinople, Egypt, and the
Levant generally. If Visconti Italy can portray itself as the bulwark of
Europe against the Ottomans, fight them in Greece and the eastern
Mediterranean, and perhaps take enough of Egypt to open up trade with India
again - well, the journeys round the Cape were made to find another route to
India when the route through the Middle East was closed, and if that trade
route isn't closed in the ATL, those expeditions may not happen.
Post by Rob
3) Italy goes for the cash and capital: Italy after unifying starts its
own version of the 100 Years War and seeks to dominate the prosperous
lands of Burgundy, Lotharingia and the Netherlands, the richest parts of
western Europe. Instead of a "Spanish Road" to the Netherlands, there is
an Italian road, and Italian soldiers, bureaucrats and flags follow the
traders who earlier first expanding their banking and other enterprises to
Antwerp and the Low Countries.
Getting a claim to Savoy, Burgundy (Ducal and Comital), Lorraine, and the
Low Countries depends almost exclusively on marriages and the accidents of
births and deaths. It could happen (did for the Habsburgs OTL, so why not
for the Visconti in the ATL?), but it's highly contingent. Finding
themselves with a claim in Spain or Portugal might be just as likely.
--
Pete BARRETT
Alex Milman
2017-06-08 19:40:00 UTC
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Post by Pete Barrett
Post by Rob
1) Italy gets in on the Atlantic: Yes Italy is in the Med and not directly
on the Atlantic seaboard, but despite Italy being on the wrong side of
Gibraltar, it is not like those straits are super tight or easily
commanded by 15th and 16th century artillery making blockade likely or
even feasible. So, conceivably Italy could horn in on areas where the
Portuguese and Spanish (and their unification is not guaranteed) ventured
in OTL either around the Cape or west to the Americas.
All true, but it's also notable that OTL the countries in the first wave of
colonial expansion (Spain, Portugal), and the second wave (France, Holland,
England/Britain) all had Atlantic coasts, while no powers without them
(Ottomans, Sweden, Poland-Lithuania, Denmark (Denmark's main ports are
mostly on the Baltic) - leaving aside land-locked powers such as Bavaria and
Bohemia) were at all active colonisers. (Some did have a few colonies, but
on nothing like the same scale.)
Well, not exactly correct: in mid-XVII the Duchy of Courland went into the
Atlantic and gained a colony in Africa on St. Andrew's Island at the Gambia River and established the Jacob Fort there. The Duchy also took other local land including St. Mary Island (modern day Banjul) and Fort Jillifree. The Duchy's colonies exported sugar, tobacco, coffee, cotton, ginger, indigo, rum, cocoa, tortoise shells, tropical birds and their feathers.

Taking into an account the size of a Duchy, the colonies had been quite
significant (relatively speaking). :-)
Rob
2017-06-10 00:48:51 UTC
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Post by Pete Barrett
Post by Rob
1) Italy gets in on the Atlantic: Yes Italy is in the Med and not directly
on the Atlantic seaboard, but despite Italy being on the wrong side of
Gibraltar, it is not like those straits are super tight or easily
commanded by 15th and 16th century artillery making blockade likely or
even feasible. So, conceivably Italy could horn in on areas where the
Portuguese and Spanish (and their unification is not guaranteed) ventured
in OTL either around the Cape or west to the Americas.
All true, but it's also notable that OTL the countries in the first wave of
colonial expansion (Spain, Portugal), and the second wave (France, Holland,
England/Britain) all had Atlantic coasts, while no powers without them
(Ottomans, Sweden, Poland-Lithuania, Denmark (Denmark's main ports are
mostly on the Baltic) - leaving aside land-locked powers such as Bavaria and
Bohemia) were at all active colonisers. (Some did have a few colonies, but
on nothing like the same scale.)
Is that relevant? I don't know; nor does anyone else. You point out that
it's not theoretically necessary to have harbours on the Atlantic, and
that's true; and yet they didn't. It might be that the possession of an
Atlantic coast with good harbours orientates the country in that direction,
while lake of it inhibits it, making it probable, if not certain, that
countries with Atlantic coasts will become colonial powers, while those
without will not.
But if it is so, then Visconti Italy is less likely to get in on the
colonialism racket.
Well I figure united Italy should do at least as well in oceanic imperialism as the Swedes and Danes, probably scaled up to their population size.
Post by Pete Barrett
Post by Rob
2) Italy takes Venice and becomes super-Venice: Basically anything the
Venetians got historically in the eastern Med, is controlled by united
Italy, in a bigger longer way, so Albania, Greece, Cyprus, the Aegean
islands. Really sank up the Italian state, maybe they are a major
territorial contender over the whole Balkans
This, I think, is most likely. I assume we're including Genoa, if not
Venice, and Genoa had commercial interests in Constantinople, Egypt, and the
Levant generally. If Visconti Italy can portray itself as the bulwark of
Europe against the Ottomans, fight them in Greece and the eastern
Mediterranean, and perhaps take enough of Egypt to open up trade with India
again - well, the journeys round the Cape were made to find another route to
India when the route through the Middle East was closed, and if that trade
route isn't closed in the ATL, those expeditions may not happen.
Well here's what I wonder. Was all trade really blocked by Mameluke or later Ottoman conquests, or the Atlantic Christian states just trying to get out of markups that were charged by them and other middlemen (probably Italian).

If "Italy" is controlling enough of Egypt to control ports on the Med Sea and Read Sea and caravans in between it won't have incentive to develop other routes but may charge large enough markups to other Europeans that those countries still want to.
Post by Pete Barrett
Post by Rob
3) Italy goes for the cash and capital: Italy after unifying starts its
own version of the 100 Years War and seeks to dominate the prosperous
lands of Burgundy, Lotharingia and the Netherlands, the richest parts of
western Europe. Instead of a "Spanish Road" to the Netherlands, there is
an Italian road, and Italian soldiers, bureaucrats and flags follow the
traders who earlier first expanding their banking and other enterprises to
Antwerp and the Low Countries.
Getting a claim to Savoy, Burgundy (Ducal and Comital), Lorraine, and the
Low Countries depends almost exclusively on marriages and the accidents of
births and deaths. It could happen (did for the Habsburgs OTL, so why not
for the Visconti in the ATL?), but it's highly contingent. Finding
themselves with a claim in Spain or Portugal might be just as likely.
That's a good point. It depends on marriage and inheritance "poker". There can be strategy and premeditated preparations behind it, but big royal flush payoffs like the Habsburgs in the 1400s and 1500s rarely happen and seldom last as long.
Alex Milman
2017-06-08 20:44:51 UTC
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Post by Rob
First of all, I commend to everybody the recent and ongoing TL: The Iron Serpent: A Visconti Italy timeline. [only on AH.com, pre-1900 forum]
[it seems that author in alt history choose to ignore most of the OTL
realities]
Post by Rob
That said, sometimes, I like to expand on things just for discussions sake and go further ahead by a century or more, which genuine TLs often take a very long time to get to if they get there at
So, what would the age of exploration and the modern era look like for an early unified Italy.
I'd have to say that a unified Visconti Italy is my favorite at this point because its early enough to make Italy a strong power during the age of exploration but late enough that the renaissance has started and recognizable Italian culture and language is coming into being.
And how exactly this unification is going to happen? In OTL (or any not quite
insane ATL) none of the Italian states had enough of a military power to
subdue a significant part of the Peninsula and, short of a completely
unexplainable military revolution, this would be "an objective reality":
prior to the French invasion the Italian military system was condottieri-based,
which means heavy in cavalry while rather weak in infantry and artillery.
An additional problem (which Cesare Borgia faced) was the fact that quite a
few of these condottieri had been rulers of the small/mid-sized Italian states
which meant that at some point a successful conqueror would have to start
executing his own generals who would be understandably unhappy when it came
to the conquest of _their_ lands.

OTOH, it is highly unlikely that ANY Italian state/ruler of that period would
possess enough financial resources to have his own mercenary army adequate
for a task. Of course, it is going without saying that as soon as ANYBODY
seems to be too aggressive and successful, he is immediately facing a
coalition of the Italian states. Within the OTL or close to OTL framework,
the regional warfare almost excluded conquests of Napoleonic-style: victory
in a major battle following by almost unopposed occupation of a territory.
Even the most decisive battles of that period rarely had been strategically
decisive: the victorious side was immediately bogging down to the sieges of
the endless fortified cities and castles, eventually running of money to pay
the troops or being forced to end a campaign during a winter season, etc.

Unification Hapsburg-style (by a series of marriages) would take a LONG time
and a lot of the convenient deaths to bring up some significant results.

So how exactly these ATL Visconti are going to end up with anything noticeably
bigger than slightly expanded Duchy of Milan?
Post by Rob
So, a unified Visconti Italy could come in many sizes, as a state encompassing Italy west of Venice and north of Rome and Umbria,
And Florence, Genoa, etc. are allowing this to happen? Very unlikely:
among other things, there is almost always a possibility to make an alliance
with an outside ruler who has some claim to Milan or whatever.
Post by Rob
or a larger state containing one or all of the Papal States, Venice or Naples-Sicily.
Now, this is a complete fantasy. Even a great power like France or HRE + unified
Spain could not do that. To start with, even these great powers did not have
enough of a military force to achieve much more than a regional success and
then success of one party was immediately provoking interference of another,
usually in a coalition with at least some Italian states. The Italian Wars
did not end up by unification of Italy under the Hapsburgs: the Hapsburgs got
South, and some territories in Northern Italy (and a lot of influence) but
not all of it.

In the case of Naples-Sicily an attempt to conquer them would almost
automatically mean interference of France and/or Aragon - there were dynastic
claims from both of them.
Post by Rob
With a unified Italy in the 1400s and 1500s,
"United" as in "most of the Northern Italy"?
Post by Rob
how is its power position going to compare with the HRE, Spain and France?
This question does not make sense unless the crucial component is explained:
how exactly this unification was accomplished?

The OTL Italian states did not possess a military system capable to stand up
to the forces you listed but neither was they capable of uniting Italy so
you (?) are talking about something seriously different and it is impossible
to answer the question without knowing the specifics.
Post by Rob
If sufficiently powerful,
what would be the directions of expansion beyond Italy
that you would consider least implausible to most implausible.
See above: without providing some specifics speculations do not make sense.
Should we assume that suddenly Italian army circa 1914 was miraculously
transported (with an unlimited supply of everything) into the XVI century?
Or that <whoever> just suddenly got possession of a huge amount of money
allowing him to hire all the local condottieri or big numbers of Swiss and
maintain them on his payroll forever?
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