Over the last few decades, a number of works have explored extensively the military organisation of late medieval Italian states, especially with regard to the condotte system and the development of standing armies. Having considered these two lines of research, this essay sheds light on the complementary military role played by local inhabitants in border areas such as the river Adda - which in the fifteenth century came to divide the duchy of Milan and the Venetian Terraferma. The analysis of a series of rural communities in the Milanese district, in particular, points out the correlation between the defensive role played by the inhabitants of the frontier and long-term political and military practices promoted by a number of local families. This paper shows that they took an active part in the defence of Milan’s territory: first by recruiting locally armed groups among relatives and clients, and secondly through the surveillance of the new frontier with Venice from their fortified estates.
Keywords: Military organisation, border defence and surveillance, state and local powers, Lombardy under the Visconti and the Sforza, district of Milan