Urban Development Of Northern Italy In Middle Ages

1092 words - 5 pages

Why was Northern Italy so much in the forefront of urban self-government? There were various reasons for the ability of certain towns in Italy to establish a certain amount of self-government. The location of the maritime cities such as Genoa was able to benefit from the crusades making them powerful. This resulted in a knock on effect to the main inland towns and cities in the north due to increase in trade. This caused prosperity and growth, because of this and also because of certain socio-economic changes originating in the countryside, the cities and towns started to break away from the old feudal systems and look to a new order more beneficial to the newly formed city ...view middle of the document...

The existence of self-government in the Northern Italian towns and cities was possible due to various reasons. In part it was location. The first crusades brought huge amounts of people and wealth into the maritime cities such as Genoa Pisa and also Venice. In consequence a great amount of trade was stimulated throughout Northern Italy and toward the inland towns and cities of Milan, Florence Ravenna and Pad ova to name a few. This also caused growth of people and trade. Other causes can be seen in the city of Milan who became a virtual free state partly due to the weakness of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV when a minor and then been able ally itself with one sovereign such as Henry and then to another like Matilda, whilst in reality been independent of the both. However I believe one of the main reasons for these towns becoming self-governed was due to an economic and social change starting from the provinces. In the late tenth century, conditions had improved for the peasant class. Rural life had become more secure due to building of town and castles defences, which helped to stop the Arab and Hungarian attacks. This, allied with the transformation of the Slaves into tenants helped the peasant population grow. This can be seen as Luzzatto (p69) suggests with new leases requiring new farms to be built and also with two or three families sharing holdings previously worked by just one.

Also the once huge estates were leased out to farm, creating a new class of wealthy leaseholders. These lease holders eventually demanded and ultimately received from the Emperor Conrad II, freedom from the restrictions on their land and also hereditary rights. This gave increased revenues which attracted them to the towns and the urban markets. These towns due to the increased trade with the maritime towns had also prospered thus attracting the over-populated peasants looking elsewhere for subsistence, which helped them change from rural to urban crafts, peasants to artisans.

The wealthy landowners and merchants saw that freedom from feudal overlords could be found within the cities. This was also true of the lower class, the popoli.

These new socio-economic changes were vital to self-government and can be seen ...

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