Established in 1568 to crush a rebellion triggered by religious strife, which through the years turned into a conflict of empires, the Spanish Army of Flanders rose to the challenge, becoming Europe’s largest standing army since Roman times. An army in which troops from all corners of the Spanish empire (and beyond) were called to serve, from Portugal to the Balkans, from Scotland to Sicily. Between 1568 and 1713 – when the Treaty of Münster put an end to the existence of the Spanish Netherlands – more than forty infantry regiments, dozens of companies of light cavalry, several thousands of gentlemen adventurers, sailors, artillerymen, administrators, ecclesiastics and architects from all corners of Spanish Italy ‘passed to Flanders’ (as the saying went) to help restore the authority of their king. And that without mentioning the numerous unaccounted-for women and children that followed them.
In the course of a century and a half of almost uninterrupted conflicts, the Italian military ‘nation’ of the Army of Flanders existed as a protean, complex and extended network, created through a largely unplanned and spontaneous process of social and cultural sedimentation by wave after wave of soldiers and officers that spent an important part of their active lives in the Low Countries. Still, owing the heavy historiographical stigma that accompanied for a long time the memory of ‘Spanish Italy’, the Italian military ‘nation’ in the Army of Flanders has gradually slipped into oblivion, and is nowadays largely forgotten.
ITAF (Italian Troops of the Army of Flanders), is an application tailored to ‘rewire’ the tangled web of military and social hierarchies which sustained the life of the Italian military ‘nation’ in the Low Countries through the effective integration of data extracted from a variety of archival and bibliographic sources. I intend to present at DH Krakow 2016 the trial version of this application/database, with which I am conducting a pilot study on the history of the longest-lived Italian infantry terzo (the Italianization of the Spanish word tercio) of the Army of Flanders – a unit that served the Spanish monarchy in the Low Countries from 1597 to 1713. The final version of this application is meant to be applied to the study of the entire Italian ‘nation’, and, with a few adaptations, its use could be extended to that of each of the other ‘nations’ (Spanish, Walloon, British, German etc.) of the Army of Flanders – or to the Army as a whole. ITAF is developed open source and relies on a NoSQL Database for data management.