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many cases, powerful nobles could field personal armies that were as large as those of the king, especially since armies were almost always a combination of loyal knights (by definition members of the nobility) on horseback, supplemented by peasant levies and mercenaries. Standing armies were almost nonexistent and wars tended to be fairly limited in scale as a result. During the late medieval and Renaissance periods, however, monarchs began to wield more power and influence. The long-term pattern from about 1350 – 1500 was for the largest monarchies to expand their territory and wealth, which allowed them to fund better armies, which led to more expansion. In the process, smaller states were often absorbed or at least forcedto do the bidding of larger ones; this is true of the Italian city-states and formerly independent kingdoms like Burgundy in eastern France.DIPLOMACY AND POLITICAL THOUGHTThe very complex and ever-shifting political reality stimulated the rapid development of diplomacy. The resident ambassador, that is, a permanent representative of one government to another, was a Renaissance innovation. He went to live in the capital city or court of another state where he conveyed messages between his government and the host government. Or to use the words that Sir Henry Wotton(1568–1639), the English ambassador to Venice, supposedly wrote in 1604, "a resident ambassador is a good man sent to tell lies abroad for his country's good." Perhaps more important than the messages, or lies, was the information that the resident ambassador and his staff gathered about the host country. Ambassadorial reports full of every kind of information are invaluable sources for modern scholars studying the Renaissance. The reports of papal nuncios and Venetian ambassadors are particularly useful.The instability of forms of government, the many wars, and the fluidity of international politics stimulated an enormous amount of discussion about politics, including several masterpieces of
political philosophy. Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527), having observed both, wrote about princedoms in hisIl principe(The Prince,written in 1513), and on republics inDiscorsi sopra laprima deca di Tito Livio(Discourses on the first ten books of Titus Livy, written 1514–1520). Numerous humanists wrote treatises advising a prince or king how he might be a good prince, work for the good of his people, and, as a result, see his state and himself prosper. Erasmus wrotethe most famous one,Institutio Principis Christiani(1516; Education of a Christian prince). JeanBodin(1530–1596) argued that state and society needed the stability that only a sovereign and absolute power can provide, and that this must be the monarchy, in hisSix livres de la république(1576; Six Books on the commonwealth; in Latin, 1586).