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The Divided State of Europe


I cannot understand why God has preserved the city of Ghent so long, a city which has occasioned so much mischief and which brings no good either to the public or the country wherein it is seated, and much less to its prince. It is not like Bruges, which indeed is a place of trade and of great resort for foreigners of all nations, in which more commodities and merchandise are disposed of than in any other town in Europe, so that to have had that town destroyed would have been an irreparable loss. . . . In this respect Ghent is admirably well situated, for certainly the countries round about it are the most luxurious, the most splendid, and the most addicted to those pleasures to which man is inclined, of all those in Europe. Yet the people of Ghent are good Christians, and to outward appearance God is religiously honored and served.

But it is not the house of Burgundy alone that has a thorn in its side: France has England as a check; England has Scotland; and Spain, Portugal. I will not mention Granada, for its inhabitants are enemies to the true faith, though otherwise Granada has given the kingdom of Castile much trouble to this very day.2

The princes of Italy, who generally have no other title to their territories but what they derive from Heaven (and of that we can have no certain knowledge), and who rule their subjects with cruelty, violence, and oppression in respect to their taxes, are curbed and kept in check by the commonwealths and free states in Italy; namely, Venice, Florence, Genoa, Bologna, Siena, Pisa, Lucca, and others. These cities are in a great many respects diametrically opposed, they to the princes, and the princes to them; and all keep a watchful eye over one another, that none of them may grow too powerful for his neighbor. But to come to particulars in relation to the state of Italy. The house of Aragon has that of Anjou to curb it; the Visconti dukes of Milan have the house of Orléans, and though they are feeble abroad, their subjects hold them in great dread. The Venetians have the princes of Italy, but more especially the Florentines, in opposition against them; and the Florentines, the neighboring commonwealths of Siena and Genoa. The Genoese are sufficiently plagued with their own bad government and treachery toward each other, not to mention their factions and parties; but this everybody knows so well that I shall dwell no longer on it.

In Germany you are well acquainted with the animosity that rages between the houses of Austria and Bavaria, and how the house of Bavaria is divided within itself. The house of Austria again has the Swiss for its enemy, upon the account only of a small canton, called Schwyz (not able to raise six hundred men). Now, however, the whole country takes its name from it, and is so increased in power and riches that two of the best towns belonging to the house of Austria are Zurich and Fribourg, both of which are in Switzerland. Besides, the Swiss have won several memorable battles, and have slain several of the dukes of Austria in the field.

There are also many other factions and private animosities in Germany; the house of Cleves against the house of Guelders, and the dukes of Guelders against the dukes of Juliers. The Easterlings1 (that remote people in the north) withstand the kings of Denmark; and, to speak in general of all Germany, there are so many fortified places, and so many people in them ready for all manner of mischief (as plundering, robbing, and killing) upon every trivial occasion, that it is a wonder to think of it. A private person, with only one servant to wait on him, will defy a whole city, and declare war against a duke, that he may have a pretense to rob him; especially if he has a little castle, perched upon a rock, to retreat to, where he can keep twenty or thirty horsemen to scour the country and plunder according to his directions. Robbers of this kind are seldom punished by the German princes, who employ them upon all occasions; but the towns and free states punish them severely whenever they catch any of them, and have often besieged and blown up their castles. . . . So that these princes and towns in Germany are placed in this opposition and discord, that no one may encroach upon his neighbor — a situation which is absolutely necessary, not only in Germany, but all the world over. . . .

1 Commines, , bk. v, ch. 18.

2 Granada was at this time, and until 1492, a Moorish kingdom

1 North Germans.


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Chicago: "The Divided State of Europe," Mémoires in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 410–411. Original Sources, accessed September 29, 2023, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=LRFB2BXMBHIJNEF.

MLA: . "The Divided State of Europe." Mémoires, Vol. v, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, pp. 410–411. Original Sources. 29 Sep. 2023. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=LRFB2BXMBHIJNEF.

Harvard: , 'The Divided State of Europe' in Mémoires. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.410–411. Original Sources, retrieved 29 September 2023, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=LRFB2BXMBHIJNEF.