From Communal Patriotism To City-State Chauvinism: Transformation of Collective Identities in Northern Italy, 1050–1500



At the turn of the first millennium, the rise of autonomous communes and city-states in northern Italy coincided with the development of a particular sense of attachment to land and city, which is widely labeled as civic patriotism. Neither the transformation of these collective identities across time nor the macrostructural dynamics behind this transformation has received much attention. Through an examination of these communes and city-states from the eleventh to the sixteenth century, this paper unpacks different forms of collective identities that prevailed in northern Italy in different periods of time, all of which have previously been labeled as “patriotism” in the literature. The differentiation I propose between “communal patriotism,” “civic nationalism,” and “city-state chauvinism” presents a more nuanced picture which highlights the differences in the ways these collective identities are produced, reproduced, and transformed. My analysis also discusses the role played by macrostructural dynamics (e.g., changing climate in the macropolitical economy as well as inter-city-state system in the peninsula) in transforming these collective identities. Alongside a longue durée evolutionary transformation, there were two conjunctural moments which created ruptures in the transformation of collective identities in northern Italy: The first took place during the territorialization of the communes and the conquest of the contado in the mid-twelfth century and the second occurred in the aftermath of the crisis of the fourteenth century.


Northern Italian communes City-states Patriotism Nationalism Chauvinism Crisis of the fourteenth century 


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Princeton Institute of International and Regional StudiesPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Sociology and The Arrighi Center for Global StudiesJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

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