The Italian City Republics  book cover
4th Edition

The Italian City Republics

ISBN 9781405859004
Published December 18, 2009 by Routledge
264 Pages

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Book Description

Daniel Waley and Trevor Dean illustrate how, from the eleventh century onwards, many dozens of Italian towns achieved independence as political entities, unhindered by any centralising power. Until the fourteenth century, when the regimes of individual ‘tyrants’ took over in most towns, these communes were the scene of a precocious, and very well-documented, experiment in republican self-government.

Focusing on the typical medium-sized towns rather than the better-known cities, the authors draw on a rich variety of contemporary material (both documentary and literary) to portray the world of the communes, illustrating the patriotism and public spirit as well as the equally characteristic factional strife which was to tear them apart. Discussion of the artistic and social lives of the inhabitants shows how these towns were the seed-bed of the cultural achievements of the early Renaissance.

In this fourth edition, Trevor Dean has expanded the book’s treatment of religion, women, housing, architecture and art, to take account of recent trends in the abundant historiography of these topics. A new selection of illuminating images has been included, and the bibliography brought up to date.

Both students and the general reader interested in Italian history, literature and art will find this accessible book a rewarding and fascinating read.


Table of Contents


1    The legacy of power

  Economic changes

  The nascent commune

2    The population

  Status and occupation

  Growth of the town

  New categories and class feeling

3    Government

  Origins of the commune


  The podestà

  Other officials


  Church and state

  The presuppositions of government


4    Town and country

  The contado

  Administration of the contado

  Immigration from the contado

  Tenurial change in the countryside

  The liberation of the serfs

  The feudal nobility

5    External relations

  The role of Empire and Papacy

  The conduct of diplomacy

  Military organization


6    Civic spirit and the visual arts

  Palaces and piazzas





  Painting the city

7    Internal divisions

  Nobles and magnates

  The Popolo

  Other private city organizations

  Guelfs and Ghibellines

  The ideal of concord

8    The failure of the republics

  Feudal power

  The triumph of the Signoria

9    The historiography of the City-Republics

Notes and references


Historical Gazetteer



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Daniel Waley was Professor of History at the London School of Economics from 1970 to 1972, before becoming Keeper of Manuscripts at the British Library. He retired in 1986.

Trevor Dean is Professor of Medieval History at University of Roehampton. His recent books include Crime and Criminal Justice in Late Medieval Italy (2007), Crime in Medieval Europe (2001) and The Towns of Italy in the later Middle Ages (2000), a volume of translated primary texts.