Francesco Guicciardini (1483-1540) was an Italian Renaissance historian and statesman. With his seminal work, The History of Italy, he reinvented historiography, relying on government documents and providing realistic analysis. He was also a friend of Niccolo Machiavelli, author of The Prince.
Guicciardini was born in Florence, one of the centers of the Italian Renaissance, to a wealthy family aligned with the Medici family. He studied law at the universities of Ferrara and Padua. In 1512 he was appointed as an emissary to the King of Aragon, where he was able to study political realism closely and first hand. When Giovanni de’ Medici became Pope Leo X, Guicciardini was appointed governor of Reggio and Modena, the start of a long career working for the papacy.
In 1523, Pope Clement VII made him vice-regent of the Romagna, the highest power in the Papal States in northern Italy. In 1531, he was made governor of Bologna, one of the most important cities in the Papal States.
Late in his career, Guicciardini began writing The History of Italy, an account of Italian politics from 1490 to 1534. He was able to use both his access to government documents and his own personal experience to create one of the first modern, accurate histories that places events into historical context. However, none of this work was published during his lifetime, and only first appeared in 1561.