A Treatise on Abundance (1638) and Early Modern Views of Poverty and Famine
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First English translation of Carlo Tapia’s ‘Trattato dell’abondanza’


‘A “Treatise on Abundance” (1638) and Early Modern Views of Poverty and Famine’ is an edited English translation of Carlo Tapia’s ‘Trattato dell’abondanza’.


Tapia (1565–1643) lived and worked in Naples, at the time the largest city in Italy and in the Spanish global empire, one of the three largest cities in Europe and a major center of artistic, musical and intellectual life in Baroque Europe. Tapia had a very distinguished career in the Spanish administration of the Kingdom of Naples and of Spanish Italy, generally serving in many offices across the kingdom, in Naples itself and in Madrid where, in 1612–24, he was a member of the Consejo de Italia (Council on Italy), the Spanish monarchy’s pre-eminent body to govern its various Italian possessions. Tapia had deep classical and juridical knowledge, and also rich experience as an administrator, including at the local level, all of which he brought to bear in the ‘Trattato’.


In the ‘Trattato’, Tapia tackled the question of how to provision the city with essential foodstuffs, a central issue for all early modern governments, and more generally the issue of how to prevent or combat famine across the kingdom’s largely rural provinces. The treatise represents the earliest systematic attempt to develop and publicize the most effective tools available to governments to fight famine and poverty. In particular, Tapia moved the discussion of these issues away from traditional religious approaches and aimed instead to offer both a theoretical understanding of the issues (based in part on his study of both classical sources and contemporary legal theories) and practical advice that could help administrators both in the provinces and in the capital.


Acknowledgments; List of Illustrations; Introduction; Translation of ‘Trattato dell’abondanza’; Index.

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A Treatise on Abundance (1638) and Early Modern Views on Poverty and Famine
Economic Ideas that Built Europe
Economic Ideas that Built Europe reconstructs the development of European political economy as seen through the eyes of its principal architects and interpreters, working to overcome the ideological nature of recent historiography. The volumes in the series—contextualized through analytical introductions and enriched with explanatory footnotes, bibliographies and indices—offer a wide selection of texts inspired by very different economic visions, and stress their complex consequences and interactions in the rich but often simplified history of European economic thought.
Economic Ideas that Built America reconstructs the development of American political economy as seen through the eyes of its principal architects and interpreters, working to overcome the ideological nature of recent historiography. The volumes in the series—contextualized through analytical introductions and enriched with explanatory footnotes, bibliographies and indices—offer a wide selection of texts inspired by very different economic visions, and stress their complex consequences and interactions in the rich but often neglected history of American economic thought.
A Treatise on Abundance (1638) and Early Modern Views on Poverty and Famine
Carlo Tapia
translation and notes by Tommaso Astarita,
introduction by Gaetano Sabatini
Anthem Press
An imprint of Wimbledon Publishing Company
www.anthempress.com
This edition first published in UK and USA 2019
by ANTHEM PRESS
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or PO Box 9779, London SW19 7ZG, UK
and
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Part of The Anthem Other Canon Economics Series
Series Editor Erik S. Reinert
© 2019 Tommaso Astarita and Gaetano Sabatini editorial matter and selection; individual chapters © individual contributors
The moral right of the authors has been asserted.
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
ISBN-13: 978-1-78308-958-1 (Hbk)
ISBN-10: 1-78308-958-X (Hbk)
This title is also available as an e-book.
CONTENTS
List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Gaetano Sabatini
Trattato dell’Abondanza / Treatise on Abundance
   Title Page and Dedication
  Trattato dell’Abondanza: Proemio/Prologue
  Trattato dell’Abondanza : Parte Prima/First Part
  Trattato dell’Abondanza : Parte Seconda/Second Part
  Trattato dell’Abondanza : Parte Terza/Third Part
  Trattato dell’Abondanza : Parte Quarta/Fourth Part
  Trattato dell’Abondanza : Parte Quinta/Fifth Part
Index of Personal Names
ILLUSTRATIONS
1 Alessandro Baratta, The Most Faithful City of Naples
2 Anonymous, Map of the Kingdom of Naples , c. 1650
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We thank Professor Erik Reinert, Abi Pandey and the whole team at Anthem Press for their help with and support of this project.
Tommaso Astarita is grateful to Georgetown University for a sabbatical semester, during which much of the work on the project was possible. He also thanks David Collins, Marden Nichols and Josiah Osgood for help with specific points in the translation of Latin passages. He is grateful to Lawrence Hyman for his willingness to listen cheerfully to many tales of the pleasures and frustrations of translating erudite seventeenth-century texts.
Gaetano Sabatini gratefully remembers Marcello De Cecco (1939–2016), an illustrious economist born in the same town as Carlo Tapia, who first alerted him to the importance of the Treatise on Abundance . He is also thankful to Isabel Aguirre of the Archivo General de Simancas for help in locating documents pertaining to Tapia; to Julien Dubouloz of the Université Aix-Marseille for help in understanding the importance of the classical tradition in Tapia’s work; and to Lina Nicoletti for following with her usual passion and competence the early phases of this work.
INTRODUCTION
Gaetano Sabatini
1. The Particular Features of the Treatise on Abundance
The Treatise on Abundance , published in 1638 in Naples by Carlo Tapia, a high official of Spanish origin, holds a special place within sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italian discussions of provisioning. 1 The uniqueness of Tapia’s book consists not only in the fact that it is the only treatise published in Italy over those two centuries (i.e., before the large production of essays on this matter in the eighteenth century) devoted fully and expressly to the problems of grain provisioning, but also in the direct involvement of the author with his topic and in the specific character of the work.
Tapia’s personal experience as minister for the king of Spain in Naples, involved on numerous occasions and in various positions in the resolution of concrete problems linked to the provisioning of grains for both Naples and the other communities of the kingdom, was fundamental in shaping the Treatise . 2 Moreover, Tapia was no ordinary official in Spanish Naples: he held the highest rank among the togati (the “robed ones”), as the Naples magistrates were commonly called by the habit that distinguished their profession, worked closely with several viceroys and in 1612–24 served on the Council of Italy in Madrid. 3 That is, between the 1580s and the 1630s, Tapia encountered, at the highest levels, all the challenges involved in the government of the political, administrative and economic life of the kingdom. The famous 1585 revolt in Naples would suffice to demonstrate how central the challenges of food provisioning were to that government. 4 The Treatise is thus a work of markedly practical character, born of direct experience both of the concrete problems posed by grain provisions, and of the broader sociopolitical context in which those problems had to be resolved.
Tapia aimed to provide public administrators with clear suggestions on provisioning policy, but he also developed a precise theoretical approach. He validated his arguments by a constant recourse to the authority not only of contemporary or medieval writers and Church Fathers, but even more of Latin authors. This is another important feature of the Treatise : in it, Tapia attempted to recover ancient knowledge, particularly ancient juridical knowledge, pertaining to grain provisioning. This was not a mere homage to a system of thought that played a central role in the culture of his time; rather, Tapia’s recourse to the authority of Roman authors was part of his effort to employ ancient reflections on provisioning matters to strengthen the practical arguments of his work. His use of ancient knowledge further proves its continuing strength throughout the seventeenth century; the next century would aim to clear the deck of all prior tradition and knowledge.
2. The Debate on Provisioning in Naples in the Late Sixteenth Century
In the first half century of Spain’s rule in Naples, the provisioning system for the capital and the provinces did not undergo substantial changes compared to the period of the Aragonese kings (1442–1503). 5 Thus, in Naples, by far the largest population center in the kingdom, the whole process of grain collecting, milling and bread-making was under the purview of the municipal government, embodied in the seven members of the Tribunal of San Lorenzo, six elected by the noble Seggi (or wards) of the city and one elected by the People’s ward. 6
This arrangement began to change in the 1550s, especially after a famine in 1555 caused significant tensions in the kingdom’s grain provisions. 7 Following a series of poor harvests, in 1560 Viceroy Alcalá added to the Tribunal of San Lorenzo a new official called the Grassiero (also known with the ancient Roman name of the Prefect of the Annona). The Grassiero was chosen usually among the regents (i.e., members) of the Collateral Council, the kingdom’s highest administrative organ, and represented the viceroy, with the aim to coordinate, and in effect to concentrate, control over the city’s provisions. 8 Already since 1548, moreover, Viceroy Pedro de Toledo had brought the Eletto of the People’s ward under viceregal control; this Eletto held the power to regulate flour provisions for the capital’s main market, and to set the retail price of flour. The result of these moves was that the provisioning system came under the de facto control of the viceroy. 9
The repeated occurrence of poor harvests, which determined the viceroys to devote more attention to the challenges of grain provisioning for Naples, offered further evidence of the consequences of the enormous demographic growth of Naples. In three decades, the city had increased its population by a third. Between the late 1520s and the 1550s, Naples went from around 150,000 inhabitants to about 200,000; it then reached about 300,000 by the first quarter of the seventeenth century; the kingdom as a whole went from 315,990 households in 1532 to 540,090 in 1595. 10 Starting in the 1550s, governing groups in Naples became increasingly aware of the difficulties posed by the city’s demographic growth, and these concerns resulted in new examinations of provisioning challenges. Many authors saw the strong link between population growth and provisioning, though some emphasized the risks to political and social stability inherent in the difficulty of feeding all the capital’s people, while others on the contrary stressed the connection between the size of the city’s population and the increased tax revenues that could result from fiscal management of the processes that brought foodstuffs to Naples.
In 1561, Viceroy Alcalá wrote to the king to propose corrective actions to the city’s excessive growth. 11 Philip II did not comment on the specific proposals, but responded with very precise questions, especially on provisions for Naples, to answer which the viceroy commissioned Alonso Sánchez , former treasurer general of the kingdom, member of the Collateral Council and one of the viceroy’s most prominent political advisors, to draft a memorandum. 12 Sánchez argued against proposals to expel or cap the city’s inhabitants, not so much because these moves would violate the privileges of citizenship acquired by migration or marriage, 13 nor because he underestimated potential risks for public order, but primarily because such measures would damage fiscal revenues by reducing the income from dues on the Naples customhouse, sales taxes on wine and other taxes linked to the size of the city’s population. 14 In terms of the difficulties in provisioning the city, Sánchez saw them as limited to times of war or when the Ottoman navy may obstruct access to the Bay of Naples, that is, to times when the city’s normal provisioning mechanisms would not operate in any case, thus implicitly dismissing the notion that the provisioning system faced structural obstacles.
Another memorandum has come to us together with Sánchez’s, also written for the Duke of Alcalá and on the same subject; its author is unknown, but he clearly was also a high Naples official. 15 Contrary to Sánchez’s opinion, this author strongly favored limits to Naples’s population growth, especially by reference to the challenges of provisioning the city. He neither regarded the difficulties posed by war or the Ottomans to the transport of grains by sea as episodic, nor considered land transport to be a satisfactory alternative:

In terms of carrying grains from Puglia in boxes, as is done in Germany and elsewhere, I think it impossible, because we would need at least ten thousand chariots from Puglia, and each chariot holding six boxes needs eight oxen to pull it from the plains of Puglia, which makes the whole enterprise unmanageable, given how many chariots and oxen would be necessary, especially considering that the kingdom barely has enough oxen for its agricultural needs. 16
In case of a grain shortage, especially at times of war, the city of Naples therefore could not easily be provisioned either by sea or by land, nor was it realistic to think of forcibly expelling even a part of the population, because that would require a very numerous army. Given these premises, and the ever-present consideration that “the masses are […] incorrigible, and, if on any day they lack bread, or other necessities, they often make trouble,” 17 the anonymous author concluded that serious measures ought to be taken to limit the growth of the city’s population.
The different approaches of Sánchez and the anonymous author to the same problem reflect the dual nature of the Collateral Council, which was at the same time both a political organ and the highest administrative body in the kingdom. As much as the anonymous official supported measures aimed to prevent shortages of foodstuffs by controlling and limiting the city’s growth, Sánchez , who represented the capital’s financial interests, including those of tax-farmers who actively speculated on grain provisions, came to the opposite conclusion. 18 Not by chance, whereas the former author supported as a useful move the expulsion from the city of foreign merchants, accused of controlling the kingdom’s trade and of consuming its riches while impoverishing its feudal lords and its communities, Sánchez stressed the harm that would come to the royal government from the loss of these merchants’ activity, precisely because throughout Naples “trade is in the hand of foreigners.” 19
The same split within the Collateral occurred when in 1562 the Council took an open vote on the adoption of such measures: the proposals garnered seven positive votes and four negative ones. 20 This lack of unanimity may be the reason why the king, when the viceroy informed him of the result of the vote, reduced the decisions approved by the Collateral, accepting only a limit on grants of land to build new edifices within the city walls. 21
After almost 20 years, in the late 1570s, the joint issues of Naples’s food provisioning and its excessive growth returned to the Collateral’s attention, and again the viceroy asked the regents for written opinions. Among them is a memorandum dated July 23, 1578, authored by Alonso Sánchez Jr., Marquis of Grottola, the kingdom’s general treasurer and the son of the author of the earlier memorandum. 22 Sánchez Jr. was an expert on this subject since, among other charges he held, he was also the Grassiero. 23
Father and son represented the capital’s financial circles, and thus perceived the possibility of reducing commercial activities linked to the city’s provisioning as harmful. Sánchez Jr. began his memorandum by mentioning the dangers perceived in Naples’s excessive growth since the time of Viceroy Alcalá—namely, the difficulties of provisioning, the risks for public order, the decrease in fiscal revenues due to the decreased tax base of the communities whose inhabitants were migrating into Naples—but he moved quickly to stress that, since the city could acquire grains from Sicily, and since large storehouses had been built apt to store 200,000 fanega s of grain, 24 the risk of famine had been eliminated. He also argued that the decrease in the provincial tax base was more than compensated by the increased revenues from the Naples customhouse and from all the other taxes and dues levied in the city.
Sánchez Jr. did not deny the possible problems of public order due to Naples’s growth and the inefficiencies of the provisioning system, but the only remedy he suggested was the one adopted by the king at the end of the inquiry conducted by Viceroy Alcalá 20 years prior, namely, limiting grants of land with permission to build; he wrote at length on this measure (which, one should note, had been almost totally ignored amid the tumultuous population growth), examined different areas of Naples where new buildings had been raised, or where more could still be built, and expressed his support for extending the prohibition on new buildings to urban areas outside the walls. 25
Very different in approach was the memorandum written two years later on the same subject by councilor Pedro Velasquez for Viceroy Juan de Zuñiga . 26 The author, who had served as conservator of the royal patrimony in Sicily, held the important office of Scrivano di Razione from 1571 to 1580 and was therefore charged with the supervision of government budgets; he was thus an expert on the kingdom’s financial mechanisms, fully capable of assessing the costs and benefits of any decision. 27 More than half of his memorandum focused on the risks for public order and the state’s security that accompanied the city’s excessive growth, with an abundance of historical examples and references to the unstable character of Neapolitans. 28 Velasquez reviewed rather quickly other provisioning and fiscal issues: the loss of revenues from communities would not be that significant; the city could get grains from Sicily; it was necessary to alleviate the burdens on the provinces; he devoted more time only to the opportunity of limiting new buildings, which he linked to the need to strengthen Naples’s fortifications, clearly having in mind the dangers that could come from within, rather than outside, the city.
In analyzing these two texts, what is most striking is the complete change in perspective compared to two decades prior. The earlier discussion of the relationship between provisioning, demographic policy and taxation in Naples and its kingdom had come soon after the viceroy had claimed direct control over grain provisioning for the capital, and that discussion had considered adopting further measures, such as limiting the city’s population. Twenty or so years later, when the possibility of a popular insurrection due to food shortages had grown, there was no serious consideration of any other administrative or policy measures to resolve the problem. This trend would conclude with the Naples revolt of 1585, sparked by the decision of the city’s Eletti to raise the price of bread in the capital shortly after they had authorized the export of over 400,000 tomoli of grain from the kingdom to Spain. 29 The revolt culminated in the lynching of the People’s Eletto, Giovanni Vincenzo Starace , and had significant echoes across the provinces. The response of the central power was purely repressive, and for about a decade, until the memoranda written in Madrid by Giovanni Francesco de Ponte in 1594–95, 30 all attempts to address provisioning problems in the kingdom ceased. It was in the harshly repressive climate of the years after 1585 that Carlo Tapia began his service in royal government, and, through the experience he gained as commissioner charged with obtaining grains in the provinces, began writing the Trattato .
3. Carlo Tapia
Carlo Tapia was born in 1565 in Lanciano, in the province of Abruzzo Ultra, to Egidio , a royal judge in Salerno, and his cousin Isabella Riccia de Tapia, of a family of local nobility. In 1567 Egidio was appointed as a judge in the Vicaria , and in 1575 he became a president of the Sommaria 31 ; at his father’s death in 1578, Carlo was placed under the guardianship of Francisco Alvarez de Ribera and Girolamo Olzignano , two other presidents of the Sommaria. 32 Both guardians helped start Tapia’s public career, especially Ribera , who in 1580 became the lieutenant of the Sommaria, in 1588 a regent of the Chancery, and in 1597 was called to Madrid to join the Council of Italy. 33
Under Ribera ’s guidance, Tapia earned his doctorate in law (civil and canon) at the age of 18, in 1583, and practiced law for a few years. 34 In 1586 he published Commentarius in rubricam et legem finalem ff. de Constitutionibus Principum , a work of remarkable erudition focused on the question of whether the sovereign is to be subject to his own laws. 35 Tapia’s position—that the prince is not subject to the law, though it is just that he submit to it—falls within a prudent and well-established jurisprudential tradition, but at least two points in this work allow us a glimpse into Tapia’s originality of thought, which would later become more evident. First of all, he stressed that magistrates are the guarantors of the system’s equilibrium, as they are charged with the implementation of the prince’s laws, but also careful to intervene in case the prince should violate them, a position that foreshadows Tapia’s later views on the centrality of the role of magistrates. 36 It is also notable that in this work Tapia openly referred to his friendship with Scipione Mazzella and praised this author’s Descrittione del Regno di Napoli , of which Tapia lauded both the concreteness and the completeness of information. 37 The closeness to Mazzella , one of few authors attentive to the real problems of the kingdom, especially in the financial realm, attests that Tapia, since the very start of his career and thinking, was especially sensitive to the economic aspects of the problems he examined, even though his first interest in them was institutional.
In July 1588 the count of Miranda , then viceroy, appointed Tapia as judge for the province of Principato Ultra, an interior region of the kingdom frequently affected by smuggling and banditry. The young judge actively engaged with both problems, which were augmented by the province’s border location, its mountainous and impervious landscape, and its distance from Naples, which often led the local barons (i.e., feudal lords) to collusion with bandits and resentment toward representatives of the central power. 38 The province moreover included the papal enclave of Benevento, which had long caused jurisdictional conflicts across the area that reverberated in the provincial royal tribunal, often with repercussions in Naples, Rome and Madrid. 39
Benevento’s extraterritoriality facilitated smuggling generally and grain speculation in particular. During the harvest, in violation of the kingdom’s laws requiring permits for any export of grain, much grain came to Benevento from surrounding areas, to be then brought to the Naples market when prices increased. In 1588 Tapia acted vigorously against this practice, jailing a few barons held guilty of having illegally brought grain into Benevento. 40 When the famine persisted into 1589, Viceroy Miranda charged Tapia with the collection of grain in Basilicata to feed Naples. 41 Thanks to the ability demonstrated in those circumstances, in 1591 Tapia was not only transferred to the royal tribunal of Salerno (which supervised the provinces of Principato Citra and Basilicata), but he was also appointed commissioner for collecting grains in those two provinces and in Principato Ultra as well. Given long-standing difficulties in traveling across these areas and the exceptional challenges posed by the famine, the extent of the territory spanned by Tapia’s commission is remarkable. Tapia moreover managed to exercise his responsibilities without recourse to extreme or unpopular measures, such as requisition or confiscation, and without burdening royal finances with purchases at exorbitant prices; his interventions aimed rather to stabilize and control market fluctuations. 42
Tapia thus earned the applause of his contemporaries and the gratitude of Viceroy Miranda , who described the good results obtained by the young magistrate in a memorandum addressed to the Madrid court. 43 Tapia established a strong personal connection with Miranda , and after 1595 he renewed it with the next viceroy, the count of Olivares . One of these two viceroys was most likely the recipient of a long and detailed memorandum Tapia wrote in the mid-1590s, in which he closely examined the problems affecting the kingdom’s communities, with particular attention to provisioning mechanisms and municipal finances. 44
His experience as commissioner for grains provided Tapia with the materials for the first part of the Trattato dell’abondanza , which, he wrote, he completed already in 1594 45 ; he also published two short essays: the Discurso de la habilidad de la juventud 46 and the Specchio di mormoratori , 47 written to defend himself—in the first more indirectly than in the second—against accusations of being too young and without experience for the offices he held. His main work in these years, though, was the De religiosis rebus tractatus , published in 1594, in which Tapia systematically discussed all juridical aspects pertaining to the major institutions of the church and to the status of the clergy. 48
As had happened with his Commentarius , the publication of this Tractatus also came just before another major step in Tapia’s career: in 1596, he was appointed as a judge of the Vicaria in Naples, and, after less than one year, his name was proposed to the king for appointment to the Sacred Royal Council, the highest appeals court. Thus, in 1597, at the young age of 32, Tapia entered into one of the highest bodies in the judicial and financial administration of the kingdom, in which he would remain for 15 years. There, he largely devoted himself to feudal matters, on which he gained a reputation as holding positions generally hostile to the baronage. 49 As a member of the Sacred Royal Council, Tapia was an influential advisor to the viceroys, in particular to Count Lemos , who governed Naples in 1610–16. Among other charges, Lemos entrusted Tapia with the chairmanship of the Committee on the Finances of the City of Naples, an organ which coordinated and controlled the administration of the capital’s budget. On the basis of this experience, in 1610 Tapia prepared an articulate memorandum for the viceroy in which he reviewed and expanded many of the issues he had already discussed in the document from about 15 years earlier, but placed special emphasis on the problems of local finances. 50
During his years in Naples between 1597 and 1612, besides his work on the Sacred Royal Council, Tapia was engaged in numerous other tasks on behalf of the central government, the city of Naples, various communities from the kingdom, charitable institutions, hospitals, monasteries, congregations, religious orders and so on. His ability to manage such a vast amount of work in different areas earned Tapia the admiration of many of his contemporary jurists 51 ; less favorable were the opinions of those outside the circle of his fellow magistrates. 52 Resentment sparked by the rapidity of Tapia’s advancement and these unfavorable opinions merged into accusations on the propriety of his actions, which were lobbed on the occasion of the general visit to the kingdom conducted by Juan Beltrán de Guevara starting in 1607. 53 Nonetheless, of 46 specific accusations presented against Tapia, only 3 were proven, which focused on his having accepted money, precious objects or foodstuffs from lawyers, tax-farmers, debtors or others with whom Tapia had been involved, in various ways, in the exercise of his functions (among these people were also tax-farmers for several taxes on the retail sale of food products). In 1617, when the investigation ended, Tapia was condemned to pay a fee to the royal treasury of 1,609 ducats. 54
To counter the accusations Tapia, besides the memorandum submitted to the visitor general, in which he meticulously reconstructed his entire career, also wrote and published a passionate booklet, the Descargos . His most significant work of the years he spent on the Sacred Royal Council consists however of the seven volumes of Ius Regni Neapolitani , the first of which appeared in 1605. 55 In this work, Tapia aimed to reorder and present in organic form, with commentary, the confused mass of juridical norms that had been accumulating in the kingdom, often in contradiction with each other, since the time of Frederick II in the early thirteenth century.
In 1612 Tapia was called to Madrid as regent in the Council of Italy. His activity on this council, which with the Council of State assisted the king in all policy decisions pertaining to Spain’s Italian domains, remains little known; our best source on it is the Decisiones Supremi Italiae Senatus , in which Tapia examined 24 cases debated within the Council. 56 In this text also, as had happened with his collected cases from his work on the Sacred Royal Council in Naples, the topic most fully discussed consisted of feudal matters, and Tapia’s approach again stressed the role of magistrates vis-à-vis both the barons and the sovereign. His years in Madrid seem however to have disillusioned Tapia about the real possibility for magistrates to affect the feudal power system. In 1620, in a private correspondence, he expressed his desire to return to Naples and lamented the weak power of the councils that advised the crown. 57 The succession of Philip IV in 1621 and the rise of the Count-Duke of Olivares probably accentuated Tapia’s feeling of impotence, so that, when in 1624 a position as regent on the Collateral Council in Naples came open, he asked the king for, and obtained, that post. 58
To ensure Tapia’s access to the Collateral the assent of the Duke of Alba was certainly crucial, and it was again due to the support of this viceroy that, in the late 1620s, Tapia was able to formulate a vast plan to reorder municipal finances in the kingdom, which came to be known as the audited budgets operation. This was the greatest intervention to restore the budgets of all communities in the kingdom attempted in the entire seventeenth century; Tapia was appointed as head of a new committee specifically tasked with this operation and independent of all other administrative organs in the kingdom, and he elaborated a plan to reorder the budget of each community in the kingdom, addressing all revenues and expenses, how to amortize arrears due to the royal treasury and how to consolidate debts owed to private individuals. 59
His management of this complex revision of municipal finances, and the role of dean of the Collateral Council which he soon acquired, made Tapia the most visible member of the Naples togati. As such, he led the opposition to the mission of the visitor general Francisco Antonio Alarcón , who came to the kingdom in 1628 with the aim to enforce complete obedience to the crown on the part of the Naples administration, through the usual mechanism of an investigation of top officials. 60 One of the moments of this struggle came with the 1632 publication of Tapia’s De praestantia Regalis Cancellariae Neapolitanae , in which he not only vigorously repeated the view that magistrates held a central role in mediating all state matters and interests, but he also more particularly and strenuously proclaimed the ancient origins, prerogatives and powers of the Collateral Council. 61
The togati won their fight with Alarcón , who left the kingdom without seriously diminishing the autonomy of the Naples administrative organs; but this episode led to a profound shift in the equilibrium between Naples and Madrid. In the 1630s, the policies of the Count-Duke of Olivares reduced the Italian South, which had been an essential element of the Mediterranean politico-military system, to a financial reserve for wars the Spanish crown now fought in the middle of Europe; in these changed circumstances, Madrid appeared no longer to need a special relationship with the Naples high administration, and, in order to secure a more docile attitude toward its continuous requests to use the kingdom’s resources to fight distant wars, sought a closer link with the grand Neapolitan aristocracy, which the togati had aimed gradually to remove from the centers of the state’s political and economic power.
An acute observer of political realities such as Tapia had been all his life could not miss the import of this shift. The renewed power of the nobility over the great Naples tribunals marked, if not a final defeat, at least a significant halt for the process of delineating the limits of the king’s sovereignty and of affirming the autonomy of state officials. At the same time, Tapia was personally affected by a direct attack against his most important project, the revision of the kingdom’s municipal finances. The discontent toward the entire operation of the groups that drew profit from the communities’ debts, and the divisions the operation had produced even within the Naples tribunals because of the way in which it had proceeded—that is, through the formation of a committee responsible only to Tapia and the viceroy—allied with the hostility of Alarcón toward Tapia, and in 1634 the Madrid Council of State suspended the entire project. 62 The disappointment caused by the failure of this project, and more broadly of the entire political vision to which he had devoted the greater part of his public activity, is perhaps the reason why Tapia, who remained a regent of the Collateral Council until his death in 1644, was often described in his late years as a tired man, inclined to delay all decisions. 63
4. The Trattato dell’abondanza
Among the last offices Tapia held was that of prefect of the Naples Annona, which he became in 1635, after a decade when Giovanni Henriquez , another regent of the Collateral Council, had occupied that position, which he had left under heavy accusations of mismanagement on the part of the city government. 64 The Trattato appeared after this experience in managing the problems of grain provisioning, in 1638. However, as mentioned above, Tapia himself claimed to have written much of the essay already in 1594. Explaining this lag of four decades is the first element we need to clarify to understand the genesis of the work.
In his dedication to Viceroy Medina de las Torres, Tapia justified the long delay between composition and publication with his engagement in the compilation of the kingdom’s laws in his Ius Regni Neapolitani , and underlined that the impulse to publish the essay had come from his work on a policy paper for the Council of Italy, which in 1624 had been asked to opine on a memorandum on the provisioning challenges of the city of Naples. 65 Both these reasons appear somewhat weak: preparing the Ius Regni Neapolitani had not stopped Tapia from working on other texts, and the publication of the Trattato in 1638 came 14 years after the Council of Italy episode. A more convincing explanation may come from a careful examination of the structure of the Trattato .
The essay consists of five parts. In the first Tapia articulated all the causes of shortages of foodstuffs, dividing them between natural, supernatural and accidental causes, by which he meant natural phenomena, those that transcend the natural order of things and the actions of men which may create a situation of need. The second part presents remedies for shortages of foodstuffs caused by the first two sets of causes, and the third part focuses on remedies for accidental causes. The work thus appears complete already in the first three parts; Tapia added two parts, one on measures to be adopted when a state of need should occur anyway, and the other on the specific difficulties of provisioning Naples.
We can easily observe that, whereas the first three parts offer primarily a theoretical discussion—although, especially in the third part, more concrete examples are present—the last parts of the work explicitly aim to offer public administrators precise policy suggestions. The impression that, if the work was produced in two distinct phases, we should consider the final two parts as those added by Tapia at a later stage is reinforced by the fact that those two parts are written in plainer language, and include fewer learned citations than the first three. Thus, it is likely that the Trattato as we have it consists of an original version, closer to Tapia’s early works in its elevated language and philosophical content, and a later addition leaner in exposition and more concrete in content.
If we hold that the parts written close to the publication date are therefore those that include more specific policy suggestions, we can infer that, in the mid-1630s, Tapia was induced to return to his incomplete essay, update it and publish it, by a desire to suggest specific measures to local administrators in the kingdom, at a time when, with the sudden interruption of action on the audited budgets, the project of a general reordering of municipal finances had failed: the central role in municipal budgets of financial problems caused by food shortages formed the essential link between these issues. This interpretation is confirmed by a few explicit references in the Trattato ; moreover, it is worth stressing that the Trattato is, among Tapia’s major works, the only one published in Italian, which underlines its aim of providing practical assistance to public administrators.
The Trattato is thus the text that best synthesizes Tapia’s life, because it fully expresses his desire to examine his experiences, systematize them within a clear theoretical framework and transform them in a model for policy and action. We may also presume that in writing this essay Tapia was not only reflecting on his own experiences, but also held clearly in mind the Naples revolt of 1585, caused by shortages and the high price of bread, which had deeply involved two men very close to Tapia, namely, Francisco Alvarez de Ribera and Giacomo Olzignano : the former, as lieutenant of the Sommaria, had authorized the grain exports from the kingdom which were commonly considered the cause of the grain shortage, while the second served as the public prosecutor in the special committee established to investigate and try those responsible for the revolt. 66
Neapolitan writers who, in the early seventeenth century, addressed provisioning issues tended to draw from the 1585 revolt the simplistic observation, as expressed in 1623 by Fabio Frezza , that “the plebs is like Cerberus, so that, to prevent it from barking, one has to stuff its maws with bread,” and that “in a city as filled with people as Naples, it is essential to keep the masses friendly,” which means “providing them with abundant foodstuffs, and especially bread.” 67 Tapia’s analysis was far more sophisticated, especially in the last three parts of the Trattato , when he addressed shortages caused by human actions, and the remedies for situations of need.
Like most of his contemporaries, Tapia did not dispute that the state should play a role in provisioning, and if necessary distribute bread at a political price; indeed, to guarantee the well-being of the population, he held that all communities in the kingdom should adopt a structure similar to the Naples Annona, which would best ensure stability. Tapia also harshly condemned all speculation, of which he clearly saw the consequences for social order; he believed that exports of foodstuffs should be avoided, even at times of plenty, and that smuggling should be strongly countered; he proposed the establishment of storehouses to alleviate times of shortage, and urged requiring statements by grain producers to allow local and central authorities to know the quantity of harvested grain and its availability.
None of these made Tapia’s analysis and suggestions very unusual in terms of the practice and theory concerning provisioning in the early seventeenth century. Where his distance from his contemporaries becomes greater is in his refusal to allow, except possibly in extreme cases, two measures then common, and indeed often implemented together, namely, sending special commissioners to provinces to collect grains and forced appropriations of grains. To such remedies, which had disastrous effects on public order and unbalanced trade relations between the provinces and the capitals, Tapia opposed a system of more ordinary measures, shaped by common sense and careful prevention. This is where the novelty—in the age of Descartes , we might say the rationality—of Tapia’s practical approach to food shortages lay.
Whatever their cause—natural, supernatural, accidental—food shortages can be prevented, and, if they occur, human action can substantially reduce their consequences, by applying economic and administrative measures apt to remove their causes or mitigate their effects. The modernity of this view is in its implicit admission that the incompetence or malice of administrators, viceroys or kings is what allows shortages to have overwhelming effects. Tapia of course did not state this explicitly, and more prudently restrained himself to the articulation of preventive measures based on his successes as grain commissioner.
Tapia’s empirical method for preventing famines consisted of three moves: first of all, as much as possible, Tapia advised acting in a long-term perspective, arguing that each community (and the grain producers operating therein) should commit to provide a set quantity of grains to the nearest port for a set number of years. By accepting this commitment and agreeing to a set price, the producers would in exchange be guaranteed that any excess production would not be requisitioned, while the state, though it may hold a bit less grain than could be obtained through requisitions, would be safe from risks to public order.
Second, to avoid excessive growth in the price of grain, Tapia proposed controls over negotiations in the main markets, such as he had effected in the customhouse at Salerno: in that episode, the limit Tapia set on demand had contained market prices, and consequently also prices at the place of production. In other words, by reducing the profit margins created for producers and traders by the shortage, everybody was ensured lower but general earnings, moreover obtained without the potential risks of either speculative tensions or popular discontent.
Finally, to correct the distortions inherent in the mechanisms of grain distribution, and in particular to combat the regular short-term removal of foodstuffs from the market to effect a price increase, Tapia proposed accurate inspections of producers and the creation of obligatory reserves of all cereals and legumes, the latter so that, at times of grain shortages, other foodstuffs could be distributed. Although when he served as commissioner for the collection of grains he had not succeeded in implementing such mandatory reserves in all communities, Tapia overall assessed his experience on this front quite positively, also due to the impact of his measures on the population.
A passage in which Tapia commented on reactions to his actions is instructive: “this way the population remained satisfied, as they could see that [the authorities] provided for the acute need that oppressed them.” 68 This, in short, was Tapia’s main recipe to ensure the public good: expert magistrates should be available to confront emergencies with adequate regulations, and to prevent the occurrence of crises by adopting preventive measures at times of plenty. This recipe was all the more revolutionary in the context of his time’s administrative culture, inasmuch as it was inspired simply by principles of honest administration and common sense. 69 At the same time, this view accords smoothly with all of Tapia’s thinking, by its emphasis on the roles of magistrates, not only (and no longer only) as mediators between the sovereign and the social orders of the state, but even between natural or supernatural forces that cause famines and the needs of the population.
Besides this view of the role of magistrates, the whole work is marked by a rationalistic approach to the formulation of problems and the management of resources, which was quite rare among Tapia’s contemporaries. This element of the work is especially evident when Tapia discusses Naples, in the last section of the essay. Tapia identified in the enormous size of the city the first cause of the difficulties in its provisioning and considered critically all aspects of the city’s Annona. 70 First of all, he noted that, under current arrangements, the price of bread was independent of the price of grain, and was generally set lower than its market price, to enable even the poorer population to afford this most basic of foodstuffs. This meant that, at times of crisis, the Annona amassed huge losses by buying grain at high prices and giving it to bread-makers at a ceiling price. Its huge debts meant, on the one hand, that, at times of relative abundance of grain, the Annona lacked the resources to collect provisions and thus avoid the necessity to buy grain when prices were higher, and, on the other, that, in order to attempt to repay the Annona’s debts, the city government was forced to impose sales taxes on mass consumer goods.
Thus, the imposition of a controlled price for grain caused a permanent deficit for the city and fiscal pressure on its population. Tapia’s main suggestion to remedy this problem was to link the price of bread to the price of grain, after imposing a ceiling price on grain with the methods already mentioned. Tapia, manifesting on this point as well his break with contemporary approaches, understood the negative effects that the capital city’s provisioning policies as then practiced could cause in terms both of increasing disorder in local finances and of making Naples increasingly impossible to govern, also because of the movement of population from the kingdom’s provinces to the capital, attracted by the dream of cheap bread.
5. The Classical Tradition in the Trattato dell’abondanza
In discussing Naples’s grain provisioning, Tapia often refers to parallels with ancient Rome and the laws of its Annona; references to the classical tradition appear more broadly throughout the essay. 71
To consider the classical sources of the Trattato it is necessary, first of all, to identify the ancient authors and works that appear in the text’s references, but also to examine the medieval tradition and the authors contemporary to Tapia; the classical references in the text in fact lack both homogeneity and precision, which suggests that often Tapia did not take them directly from the original works. In order fully to assess Tapia’s choices regarding classical sources, we would need to know precisely which texts were available to him, both in his personal library and in others to which he had access. But, as our focus is primarily to consider the continuities in provisioning policies from antiquity to Tapia’s time, it is more fruitful to concentrate on the work’s content.
Though the Trattato certainly emerged from Tapia’s reflections on his own experiences, nonetheless he gave equal value to the presentation of his learning and of what he took from ancient experiences. This point appeared clearly in the dedication to Viceroy Medina de las Torres, when Tapia connected the origins of his text to the various missions he conducted on behalf of Viceroy Miranda in 1588–91, writing:

It appeared to me that it was good to learn everything on this subject that can be found in the Histories and in all Authors who have treated it. From this came that, having found several things worthy of being remembered about this subject, I brought them together with the notion of bringing them out in print for the public benefit. 72
The Trattato is therefore a collection of both experiences and learned sources, and reflects Tapia’s conviction that he contributed to the public good in his role both as commissioner for the collection of grains and as propagator of a still relevant ancient knowledge.
Tapia assumed thus from the start the unbroken continuity between past and present, from a primarily practical perspective. It is therefore fruitful to examine in which passages of his discussion ancient references occur, and whether this continuity remains purely stated (which would be interesting in itself), or whether it is supported by Tapia’s deployment of his references and the essay thus substantially rests on comparisons across time.
We may divide the Trattato ’s sources in five categories: authors from ancient Greek and Roman literature; the Corpus Iuris Civilis , as expressed in the Digest , the collection of extracts from the works of jurisprudential writers active in Rome between the first and fourth century, and in the Codex Iustinianus , the collection of imperial edicts issued between the second and fifth centuries 73 ; the Old and New Testaments, at times cited through the commentaries of a Church Father; medieval and early modern works of history or jurisprudence; and finally collections of laws from Tapia’s own time. We will here consider only the first two categories, which directly refer to the classical tradition, more specifically to late republican and imperial Rome. References to these categories do not appear evenly in the Trattato : references to classical literature, as to the Bible, appear overwhelmingly in the prologue, in particular in connection to the political and moral aspects of provisioning, and in the first part of the work, whereas in the later parts, where Tapia addresses remedies to grain shortages, citations from juridical sources predominate.
In spite of the uneven presence of various categories of sources in the different sections of the work, Tapia often pairs on the same page references to Latin and Greek authors (the latter always cited in Latin translation), to pagan literature and the Old Testament, to poets and historians. 74 This approach confirms that Tapia was not really constructing a historical analysis, but was rather aiming to convey a sense of authority by assembling historical examples deployed within a moral dimension, as is evident when he cites care for provisioning as one of the prince’s virtues, in opposition to the moral and political disorder caused by famine. 75 In this example, indeed, references to ancient Rome as a source of good government principles do not go much beyond antiquarian curiosity, as Tapia alternated mentions of the emperors’ attention to provisioning with descriptions of coins or medals minted in their honor. 76 On the other hand, it is evident in these same pages that references to classical Rome are filtered through Tapia’s personal involvement 77 (by which he appropriates that tradition) or mediated through the works of authors he cited expressly: Sebastiano Erizzo ’s Discorso … sopra le medaglie antiche , 78 Tiberio Deciani ’s Tractatus criminalis , 79 Cesare Baronio ’s Annales Ecclesiastici , 80 Andrea Alciato ’s Emblemata 81 and so on.
By themselves, even references to the Roman institutions that dealt with provisioning matters are insufficient to construct a historical analysis, or to examine these institutions within a systematic comparison between ancient and contemporary administrative structures. On the contrary, Tapia’s remained a moral perspective, as indicated by the fact that twice, as model of behavior for the commissioners charged with provisions, he pointed to Joseph and his work for Pharaoh . 82 Tapia’s focus on aspects of his theme not strictly speaking historical appears also when, without any evidence, he assigned patrician status to the aediles charged with the Annona, established by Caesar in 44 bc , in order simply to stress the importance of this office. 83 At the same time, when he used Cassiodorus ’s Variae , an essential source for the administrative organization of the Western empire in the sixth century, Tapia left the only, long, citation from this work wholly without comment, thus presenting it substantially out of context. 84
On this point, it is worth noting that, among ancient works on agriculture, Tapia completely ignored the great treatises by Cato, Varro , 85 Columella or Palladius , and he frequently used only the first of the four books of Virgil’s Georgics . 86 This selection makes sense inasmuch as Tapia, when discussing production techniques, aimed simply to offer common sense advice. In the praise of rural life and in the didactic lyricism of the Georgics , Tapia sought a source of authority, 87 while also endowing the citations from the poem with a precise meaning, by connecting them to the geography and specificity of the kingdom of Naples. 88
The same can be said of Tapia’s two references to a work of Cicero from which Tapia could have drawn more fully, namely, the third causa from the second Verrine oration, better known as De frumento because in it Cicero closely considered the system of taxation in kind, especially in wheat, imposed by Rome on its province of Sicily. In developing a list of the corrupt actions of Verres, Cicero examined both the calculation of the basis of the tax and the more specific aspects of how it was levied, including the mediation between the authorities and local communities. From this full discussion, which could offer many links to the themes of the Trattato , Tapia cited only the letter addressed by the Sicilians to the governor Lucius Metellus, Verres ’s successor, to urge him not to abandon cultivated land, and then referred to the orations as a whole in order to evoke, quite broadly, Sicily’s role as granary for Rome. 89
One might then be tempted to conclude that Tapia’s pretense of continuity with antiquity was merely formal in character, based simply on the authority with which classical authors were endowed, and indeed the inattention with which Tapia often reports his Latin citations might also indicate that they result more from a rhetorical emphasis than from a careful effort to integrate them in his analysis. However, in the last three parts of the Trattato , when Tapia aimed to support the value of the practical solutions he advanced, he deployed his ancient sources far more carefully, drawing primarily from Roman legal sources.
Even in these parts, at times, the ancient citations appear simply to evoke a certain authority, especially when Tapia aimed to show that the measures he suggested had already been in use under Rome. For instance, to confirm the usefulness of concentrating all the grain production of a community in a single storehouse, in order to have a clear picture of its availability, Tapia wrote: “for this initiative, though I have thought of it many times and proposed it to my superiors, when I was employed in matters pertaining to provisions, I had not yet found an authority to confirm this thought of mine; I have since found it in the jurist Martius .” 90 Actually, the citation from the Digest that follows—and which pertains in any case not to the third-century jurist Aelius Marcianus , but to Arcadius Carisius, who lived under Constantine —refers to the right of some cities to impose local tributes in kind, on the basis of cultivated land, and thus has little to do with the context in which Tapia used it. 91 This is but one example of discordance between the themes Tapia discussed and the juridical sources he rallied in support of his views, a discordance which becomes more pronounced when Tapia did not use the original texts, but relied on later commentators, 92 or when he used a citation to arrive at a general legal principle, rather than to support a specific practical measure. 93
In treating certain common provisioning measures, Tapia’s work, in sources and content, faithfully followed similar Roman administrative and judicial measures, which is unsurprising as Roman law remained the undisputed foundation of all jurisprudence in Tapia’s time and culture. Thus, for instance, the limit of two years for a landowner to claim his rights on a parcel of land cultivated by someone else, 94 or the penalties against hoarders, 95 come straight from Roman law. On the other hand, the careful reconstruction of the imperial administrative techniques for collecting and archiving information about provisions more clearly reflected Tapia’s personal analysis. 96 On this subject, Tapia looked closely at themes to which modern historians have turned only fairly recently, 97 and he offered a credible adaptation of ancient norms and knowledge; in this spirit, he proposed the formation of municipal registries and the emission of receipt for grains delivered to public authorities. 98
Such a direct adaptation from antiquity of course can apply only to specific, technical points; a broader continuity with ancient Rome appears in structures, more than specific content, pertaining to the relationship between the central power and local realities. In this context Tapia discussed the autonomy of local communities, or the mediating role of the central power between municipal authorities and individuals or groups within each community. For instance, in the second part, while discussing measures to support agriculture, Tapia examined the financial relations between local communities and tax-farmers 99 : by deploying citations from the Digest and the Codex Iustinianus , Tapia affirmed the priority enjoyed by cities over other debtors in claiming money from tax-farmers, by analogy with the precedence of the imperial treasury over private creditors.
In the emphasis Tapia placed on continuity with ancient administrative and political structures we can see both the depth and the limit of his thinking, in that, although the figures involved in the processes he examined stay the same, the solutions adopted appear quite distant, if closely analyzed. Thus, Tapia at times bends ancient precedents to the aims of his discussion, on the basis of what may be only superficial similarities. For instance, in discussing the beneficiaries of public distributions of grains at times of need, Tapia referred to imperial edicts regulating distributions at Alexandria or Constantinople in the fourth and fifth century, thus endowing measures taken for specific cities at specific moments with a broader validity. 100 In the same way, he also saw at work, in the formation of lists of beneficiaries of the distributions in the fourth to sixth centuries, a principle of charity and attention to the weakest, something which had no connection to late imperial legislation which, on the contrary, linked access to public grain to citizenship. 101 The lack of clarity of the Latin text and the very particular character of the procedure described in it may partially explain why Tapia distorted the meaning of this text.
Similarly, to justify the necessity of fixing the price of bread, Tapia found the basis of relevant royal edicts in Roman law; however, the two Digest passages he used establish, on the contrary, that an owner can be obliged to sell grain to the community, but that, in such cases, the price must not be lower than the price set for public grain, which actually argues the opposite of what Tapia is discussing. 102 Thus, Tapia established parallels with antiquity not so much focused on specific measures, but rather on the general relationship between central power, communities and individuals; this allowed him to use the classical tradition and give an impression of continuity, but without being constrained to specific historical results.
In sum, the continuity between ancient and modern experiences Tapia aimed to establish in the Trattato is more assumed than demonstrated; his intention was to employ references to pagan literature, the Bible, ancient jurists and their commentators rather to support his rhetorical effort than to compose a historical analysis. This is probably why he often cited imperial edicts in the historical present, whereas a true diachronic awareness should have led Tapia to stress changes over time. 103 In this framework, the references to ancient authors represent less their content than a broad appeal to a principle of authority. Continuity is evident in some fairly minor elements of the themes Tapia discussed, or, when discussing agricultural production, in some fairly broad precepts. Roman law operates primarily to establish parallels between antiquity and Tapia’s time focused on the relationship among central power, local communities and individuals. Even occasional incoherence or distortions that appear in the relationship between the positions Tapia advanced and the content of texts he used to support those positions are in a way evidence of his appropriation of the classical tradition. This rather particular way of using classical knowledge, mixed with Tapia’s direct experience of the matters he discussed, help enrich the Trattato but also make it a work of difficult interpretation, in which modern elements and appeals to traditions coexist.


Figure 1 Alessandro Baratta, The Most Faithful City of Naples (View of the Naples shore as background to a cavalcade escorting the Infanta Maria of Austria, Queen of Hungary), sheet four of six, etching and engraving, 1632, courtesy of the British Museum.
Translator’s note : The original edition of Tapia’s book is a quarto volume consisting of 133 numbered pages (plus a few unnumbered pages for the title and dedication at the start, and the censor’s permission at the end). It includes many notes, but their content is minimal: usually they include only an (often abbreviated) version of an author’s name, possibly an abbreviated title of the work and then abbreviated references to book or chapter numbers (rarely complete and at times incorrect). Many of Tapia’s references to laws and the works of jurists are somewhat difficult to understand because of his use of abbreviations presumably commonly in use in his time for juridical texts (and occasionally also due to unclear typographical marks in the original edition); generally speaking, these notations refer to the corpus of Roman law and its ancient (and at times medieval or early modern) commentators; in such cases I have tried to indicate the topic of the cited law, but otherwise largely reproduced Tapia’s abbreviated references.
This edition provides one set of notes, with note numbers in the English-language text only. The footnote numbering restarts after each of the six parts of Tapia’s text (the prologue and the five parts of the Treatise ). Notes that appear as regular text consist of my translation of Tapia’s notes, placed where they appear in the original text, and integrated only to complete (or translate) the names of authors or titles of books. Further additions (such as added or completed chapter or line references, corrections or explanations of what the sources are) appear in square brackets. Notes that appear entirely in square brackets are fully my own. Tapia’s many citations within his text (almost all of which appear in Latin and italicized in the original book) are rendered in English in the translated text (and also italicized). I have whenever possible consulted and checked the originals of the texts Tapia cites. I have however not corrected the numerous places where Tapia quotes selectively, or misquotes, misspells or mispunctuates the passages he cites (which appear thus in the Italian version here as they do in Tapia’s original book, errors and all). Finally, please note that the Italian version published here reproduces Tapia’s original 1638 book, though a few minor points of spelling and punctuation have been modernized.
I have inserted page breaks after each section (part or chapter) of Tapia’s text, for clarity of reading and to keep the two versions more easily aligned with each other; in Tapia’s original, page and section breaks appear inconsistently.

1 Carlo Tapia, Trattato dell’abondanza (Naples: Roberto Mollo, 1638; see also the modern Italian edition, Gaetano Sabatini, ed., Lanciano: Carabba, 1998). All citations in this introduction refer to the present edition and appear in the notes as Treatise .
2 The provisioning system was known as the Annona , an ancient Roman term.
3 The kingdom of Naples was ruled by the kings of Spain from 1503 to 1707; the king appointed a viceroy (usually a Spanish aristocrat), who governed with the assistance of several bureaucratic organs mostly staffed by the togati. The Council of Italy was the main organ in Madrid charged with the supervision of all of Spain’s Italian domains (the kingdoms of Naples, Sicily and Sardinia, the duchy of Milan and a few smaller territories); see Pedro Cardim, Tamar Herzog, José Javier Ruiz Ibáñez and Sabatini, eds, Polycentric Monarchies: How Did Early Modern Spain and Portugal Achieve and Maintain a Global Hegemony (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2012).
4 On the revolt, see Rosario Villari, La rivolta antispagnola a Napoli. Le origini, 1585–1647 (Bari: Laterza, 1976), 38–48, which also discusses the revolt’s echoes in contemporary sources.
5 On the provisioning system, see Giuseppe Coniglio, “Annona e calmieri nella Napoli spagnola,” Archivio Storico per le Province Napoletane (henceforth ASPN ), 65 (1940): 105–94; Coniglio, “Note sulla storia della politica annonaria dei viceré spagnoli a Napoli,” ASPN , 66 (1941): 274–82; Coniglio, “L’Annona,” in Storia di Napoli , ed. Ernesto Pontieri (10 vols; Naples: ESI, 1971–78), vol. 5.2, 691–718; a discussion of eighteenth-century approaches is in Paolo Macry, Mercato e società nel regno di Napoli. Commercio del grano e politica economica nel Settecento (Naples: Guida, 1974), and Enrica Alifano, Il grano, il pane, e la politica annonaria a Napoli nel Settecento (Naples: ESI, 1996); see also Giulio Fenicia, Politica economica e realtà mercantile nel regno di Napoli nella prima metà del XVI secolo (1503–1556) (Bari: Cacucci, 1996), and Elena Papagna, “Napoli e le città del grano nel Mezzogiorno spagnolo,” Società e storia , 20, no. 75 (1997): 127–42.
6 The classic text on the Naples municipal government is Camillo Tutini, Dell’origine e fundation de’ seggi di Napoli (Naples: Ottavio Beltrano, 1644); see also Giuseppe Galasso, “Una ipotesi di ‘blocco storico’ oligarchico-borghese nella Napoli del ‘600: i ‘Seggi’ di Camillo Tutini tra politica e storiografia,” Rivista Storica Italiana , 90 (1978): 507–29. There were five aristocratic Seggi, associations of the city’s old noble families, each rooted in one of the city’s wards (one of the five elected two members of the Tribunal, which took its name from the Franciscan complex that housed its meetings); the Tribunal’s members were known as the Eletti. The Seggio del Popolo (or the People’s ward) was reestablished at the end of the fifteenth century and its Eletto represented in theory the entire non-noble population, though the Popolo was in fact usually dominated by business interests.
7 Silvio Zotta, “Momenti e problemi di una crisi agraria in uno ‘Stato’ feudale napoletano (1585–1615),” Mélanges de l’École Française de Rome, Moyen Age—Temps Modernes , 90, no. 2 (1978): 715–79; Zotta, “Rapporti di produzione e cicli produttivi in regime di autoconsumo e di produzione speculativa. Le vicende agrarie dello ‘Stato’ di Melfi nel lungo periodo,” in Problemi di storia delle campagne meridionali nell’età moderna e contemporanea , ed. Angelo Massafra (Bari: Dedalo, 1981), 221–90.
8 Alifano, Il grano , 35–36.
9 Alifano, Il grano , 37.
10 Claudia Petraccone, Napoli dal ‘500 all’800: problemi di storia demografica e sociale (Naples: Guida, 1974); on how to calculate total population from the census data on households in the early modern kingdom, see Karl Julius Beloch, La popolazione d’Italia nel secoli XVI, XVII, e XVIII (Rome: Eredi Botta, 1888), 8–15.
11 Archivo General de Simancas (henceforth AGS), Estado , b. 1052, and Secretarías Provinciales , b. 1.
12 Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli (henceforth BNN), Sezione manoscritti, Fondo Brancacciano , II-E-5, fols 120v–121r. Sánchez’s impressive career began even before Spanish rule, and he was closely tied to Viceroy Toledo; his son Alonso Jr. gained the title of marquis of Grottola in 1574; see Carlos José Hernando Sánchez, Castilla y Nápoles en el siglo XVI. El virrey Pedro de Toledo (Valladolid: Junta de Castilla y León, 1994), 360–61, and note 23 below.
13 On citizenship, see Piero Ventura, “Le ambiguità di un privilegio: la cittadinanza napoletana tra Cinque e Seicento,” Quaderni Storici , 30, no. 2 (1995): 55–78.
14 On the customhouse ( dogana ) and taxes levied in Naples, see Roberto Mantelli, Burocrazia e finanze pubbliche nel regno di Napoli a metà del Cinquecento (Naples: Pironti, 1981). Dogane were locations where goods could be traded and where applicable tariffs were levied; tariffs affected all trade, both that crossing the kingdom’s external boundaries and trade between its provinces and cities.
15 BNN, Sezione manoscritti, Fondo Brancacciano , II-E-5, fols 121v–123r.
16 BNN, Sezione manoscritti, Fondo Brancacciano , II-E-5, fol. 122r.
17 BNN, Sezione manoscritti, Fondo Brancacciano , II-E-5, fol. 123r.
18 Sánchez’s ties with these interests emerged clearly during the inquiry into his activities conducted in the context of the general inspection of all the kingdom’s officials led by Gaspar de Quiroga in 1559–61 (Mantelli, Burocrazia , 76–78); the Spanish kings occasionally sent inspectors called “visitors” to conduct such general investigations (“visits”) of their distant kingdoms’ administration, with the aim of mitigating widespread corruption and waste.
19 BNN, Sezione manoscritti, Fondo Brancacciano , II-E-5, fol. 121r. See also Sabatini, “Alleati? Nemici? I portoghesi, i genovesi e il controllo del sistema di approvigionamento e del mercato del credito a Napoli tra XVI e XVII secolo,” in Studi storici dedicati a Orazio Cancila , eds Antonino Giuffrida, Fabrizio D’Avenia and Daniele Palermo (Palermo: Associazione Mediterranea, 2011), 557–88.
20 BNN, Sezione manoscritti, Fondo Brancacciano , II-E-5, fols 114v–115r; on the membership of the council in 1562, see Gaetana Intorcia, Magistrature del regno di Napoli. Analisi prosopografica (Naples: Jovene, 1987), 245–46.
21 BNN, Sezione manoscritti, Fondo Brancacciano , II-E-5, fol. 115v, Madrid, December 6, 1562.
22 BNN, Sezione manoscritti, Fondo Brancacciano , II-E-5, fols 2r–114r.
23 On both father and son, see also Mantelli, Burocrazia , 76–78; Mantelli, Il pubblico impiego nell’economia del regno di Napoli: retribuzioni, reclutamento, e ricambio sociale nell’epoca spagnuola (secc. XVI-XVII) (Naples: Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici, 1986), 338 and 360; and Renata Pilati, Officia principis. Politica e amministrazione a Napoli nel Cinquecento (Naples: Jovene, 1994).
24 A fanega (or hanega) was a Castilian measurement for liquids and solids, equivalent to 20.46 hectoliters (or 540.5 gallons); the capacity of these storehouses was therefore roughly 108 million gallons.
25 On the urban development of the city in this period, see Luigi De Rosa, “Nápoles: una capital,” in Ciudad y mundo urbano en la época moderna , eds De Rosa and Luis Antonio Ribot Garcia (Madrid: El Rio de Eraclito, 1997), 239–70, and Sabatini, “Economy and Finance in Early Modern Naples,” in A Companion to Early Modern Naples , ed. Tommaso Astarita (Leyden: Brill, 2013), 89–107.
26 The delay in the appearance of the second memorandum was likely due to the transition, in late 1579, between Viceroys Mondejar and Zuñiga; see Coniglio, I viceré spagnoli di Napoli (Naples: Fausto Fiorentino, 1967), 131.
27 On Velasquez, see Giovanni Muto, Le finanze pubbliche napoletane tra riforme e restaurazione (1520–1634) (Naples: ESI, 1980), 49; Mantelli, Il pubblico impiego , 322; Intorcia, Magistrature , 246 and 292–93; Pilati, Officia principis , 288.
28 BNN, Sezione manoscritti , Fondo Brancacciano , II-E-5, fols 116s–120r, Naples, May 1580. In fact, Viceroy Zuñiga attempted to control public order with the prammatica (or edict) of June 20, 1581; see Lorenzo Giustiniani, ed., Nuova collezione delle prammatiche del Regno di Napoli , vol. VI (Naples: Stamperia Simoniana, 1804), LXII, De furtis , 89–90.
29 One tomolo was equal to about 55 liters, so the quantity exported exceeded 22 million liters.
30 On de Ponte, see Silvio Zotta, G. Francesco de Ponte. Il giurista politico (Naples: Jovene, 1987), 107–12.
31 The Vicaria was the highest specifically judicial court in the kingdom; the Sommaria supervised all matters of taxation and finance, though, as was usual in early modern administration, it too functioned as a tribunal and its members were trained in the law far more often than in finance (its members were called presidents, its leader lieutenant); the Chancery was a branch of the Collateral Council, the kingdom’s highest administrative and political organ (its members were called regents).
32 On Egidio Tapia and his two colleagues, see Intorcia, Magistrature , 385, 265 and 350; for a fuller biography of Carlo Tapia, see Sabatini, “Carlo Tapia: la vita, le opere, il ‘Trattato dell’abondanza,’” in Tapia, Trattato (1998), 1–26; see also Pier Luigi Rovito, “La giustizia possibile. Regole di buon governo di Carlo Tapia per il conte di Lemos,” Archivio Storico del Sannio , 1, nos 1–2 (1990): 9–131, and Sabatini, “El ‘Trattato dell’abondanza’ de Carlo Tapia: virtudes del buen gobierno y lucha contra el hambre en el Nápoles español,” in El gobierno de la virtud. Política y moral en la Monarquía Hispánica (siglos XVI–XVIII) , ed. Juan Francisco Pardo Molero (Madrid: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2017), 301–24. Biographical information on Tapia is also available in the two memoranda—one manuscript and one printed—Tapia wrote to defend himself when he was investigated by the visitor general Juan Beltrán de Guevara starting in 1608: AGS, Visitas de Italia , b. 89, f. 1, Relación de lo que tiene al Consejero Carlos de Tapia , Naples, July 22, 1609, and AGS, Visitas de Italia , b. 86, f. 10, Descargos por el regente Carlos de Tapia , printed memorandum, no date or place (but Naples, 1609).
33 Tapia related Ribera’s life in his Francisci Alvarez de Ribera Regentis in Supremo Italiae Consilio Pro Regno Neapolitano Vita a Carolo Tapia in eodem Consilio Regente Descripta (no date or place).
34 Sabatini, “Carlo Tapia,” 3–4.
35 The essay was published in Naples by Horazio Salviani; on the cultural context of this work, see Zotta, G. Francesco de Ponte , 42–45.
36 Zotta, G. Francesco de Ponte , 25.
37 Tapia, Commentarius , 85.
38 Sabatini, “Carlo Tapia,” 5; on banditry in the kingdom’s northern borders in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, see also Sabatini, “Fiscalità e banditismo in Abruzzo alla fine del Seicento,” Nuova Rivista Storica , 79, no. 1 (1995): 77–114. The provincial royal tribunals were known as Udienze , and the judges as Uditori .
39 On Benevento and the conflict the enclave caused, see Aurelio Musi, “Benevento e Pontecorvo,” in Storia del Mezzogiorno , ed. Giuseppe Galasso, vol. 6, Le province del Mezzogiorno (Rome: Edizioni del Sole, 1987), 269–328.
40 Tapia later noted that the viceroy Duke of Alcalá (1629–32) tried to combat this practice with an edict punishing those who used it to influence the price of grain with up to 10-year imprisonment ( Treatise , 223).
41 AGS Visitas de Italia , b. 86, f. 10; Descargos , fol. 2v.
42 Sabatini, “Carlo Tapia,” 6.
43 AGS Visitas de Italia , b. 86, f. 10; Descargos , fol. 2v.
44 BNN, Sezione manoscritti, Fondo Brancacciano , II-E-5, fols 151r–159r, Expedientes para relevar las universidades del Reyno ; on this text, see Sabatini, Il controllo fiscale sul territorio nel Mezzogiorno spagnolo e il caso delle province abruzzesi (Naples: Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici, 1997), 53–58, and Sabatini, “Carlo Tapia,” 8–11.
45 Treatise , 219.
46 Naples: Horazio Salviani, 1590.
47 Naples: Giovanni Cacchi, 1592.
48 Naples: Stelliola, 1594.
49 Sabatini, “Carlo Tapia,” 7.
50 Rovito, “La giustizia possibile,” 43–44.
51 Ludovico Giustiniani, Memorie istoriche degli scrittori legali del regno di Napoli , vol. 3 (Naples: Stamperia Simoniana, 1788), 203–4.
52 The lawyer Francesco D’Andrea, for instance, wrote that some defined Tapia as a “great man occupied in doing nothing” (D’Andrea, Avvertimenti ai nipoti , ed. Imma Ascione (Naples: Jovene, 1990), 164–65); on D’Andrea, see also Nino Cortese, I ricordi di un avvocato napoletano del Seicento: Francesco D’Andrea (Naples: Lubrano, 1923).
53 Visitors solicited memoranda, often anonymous, on the actions of public administrators, while reserving to themselves the choice of whether to present formal indictments; see Mireille Peytavin, “ Visites générales à Naples, XVI–XVII siècle,” in Recherche sur l’histoire de l’Etat dans le monde ibérique , ed. Jean-Frédéric Schaub (Paris: Editions Rue d’Ulm, 1993), 11–20, and Peytavin , “ Le calendrier de l’administrateur. Périodisation de la domination espagnole en Italie suivant les visites générales,” Mélanges de l’École Française de Rome. Italie et Méditerranée , 106, no. 1 (1994): 263–332. The accusations against Tapia appear in AGS, Visitas de Italia , b. 378, f. 1, Contra el consejero Carlos de Tapia .
54 AGS, Visitas de Italia , b. 108, f. 3, Juan Beltrán de Guevara to the Constable of Castile, Naples, March 27, 1609; AGS, Secretarías Provinciales , b. 235, Relación de las sentencias pronunciadas contra ministros y officiales del reyno de Nápoles por los juezes de la visita general que hizo el arçobispo de Santiago por orden de su Mag.d , no date or place (but Madrid, July 1617).
55 Naples: Carlini, 1605 on.
56 Naples: Aegidium Longum, 1626.
57 Sabatini, “Carlo Tapia,” 18.
58 Intorcia, Magistrature , 385.
59 On the technical aspects of these audited budgets, see Sabatini, Il controllo fiscale , 81–93, and Alessandra Bulgarelli Lukacs, La finanza locale sotto tutela. Regia corte e comunità nel Regno di Napoli (secolo XVII ) (Padua: Marsilio, 2012), 199–252; on the political aspects of and debates about the operation, see Sabatini, “Fiscalité des villes, argent du roi. Les finances urbaines dans le royaume de Naples à l’époque moderne,” in L’argent dans la ville en France, Espagne, Italie XVII e —XVIII e siècle , ed. François-Xavier Emmanuelli, Liame. Bulletin du Centre d’Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine de l’Europe Méditérranéenne et de ses Péripheries , no. 8 (Montpellier: Publications Montpellier, 2001), 101–15.
60 Sabatini, “Carlo Tapia,” 18.
61 Naples: Egidio Longo, 1632 (in this period, the term Cancelleria (Chancery) was often used as synonymous with the Collateral Council).
62 Muto, Finanze pubbliche , 116–17; Rovito, “La giustizia possibile,” 65–66.
63 For example, in 1637 the Florentine ambassador Vincenzo Velluti wrote: “on this matter […] there is no ready remedy, because of the slowness of the Regent [Tapia]” (Archivio di Stato di Firenze, Mediceo , b. 4108, Naples, February 3, 1637).
64 AGS, Secretarías provinciales , b. 235, Respuesta al memorial de cabos de los electos de la ciudad de Nápoles contra el regente don Juan Henriquez , no date or place (but Naples, 1635), fol. 4v.
65 Treatise , 35; the Treatise included the entire decision issued by the Council of Italy in 1624, 211–15.
66 Villari, La rivolta , 50; Rovito (“La giustizia possibile,” 30) stresses that the lynching of Starace was frequently evoked in the Collateral Council’s discussions and was thus an episode all Naples magistrates were keenly aware of.
67 Frezza, Discorsi intorno ai rimedi di alcuni mali ai quali soggiace la Città e il Regno di Napoli (Naples: Heredi Tarquinio Longo, 1623), 3 and 40.
68 Treatise , 177.
69 The necessity to ensure the proper preparation of magistrates, which had been a constant concern of Tapia (as expressed already in his memorandum from the mid-1590s), seemed to be recognized in July 1631, when a law ordered that law graduates, before accessing the kingdom’s high offices, should be examined by a committee of three members appointed by the viceroy, among them Tapia himself; within a few years, however, this law was largely ignored; see Ileana Del Bagno, Legum doctores. La formazione del ceto giuridico a Napoli tra Cinque e Seicento (Naples: Jovene, 1993), 151–64.

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