Keywords: Bureaucracy; Chanceries; Sforza; Milan; Cultural History.
This essay aims to propose a cultural-historical turn in the history of «bureaucracy» through a continuing re-thinking of the role of chanceries between the Late Middle Ages and early modernity (c. 1300 - c. 1650). During the last thirty years, specialists have reconceptualized chanceries from passive scribal organs to active hubs of high politics and learned culture; but still overwhelmingly see them as institutional laboratories of top-down state-building. This approach is limiting: as physical sites of political-administrative writing located in the heart of premodern courts and cities, chanceries should also be studied in the light of a more interdisciplinary ensemble of scholarly trends - including textual scholarship, the history of information/ communication, and the spatial turn. This has the potential to reframe the documentary interface between authorities and subjects as a collaborative one, which in turn would add a rich layer to our understanding of premodern power relations.