The Italian City Republics: 4th Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Italian City Republics

4th Edition

By Daniel Philip Waley, Trevor Dean


242 pages

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Paperback: 9781405859004
pub: 2009-12-18
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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


About the Authors

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.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Europe / Italy
HISTORY / Renaissance