The Consolidation of the Communes, 1150–1250

  • J. K. Hyde
Part of the New Studies in Medieval History book series


The hundred years from 1150 to 1250 were in many ways the most crucial in the development of the medieval states of Europe, and the patterns of authority, law and administration hammered out during this period were destined to survive into the early modern period without fundamental change. Italy was no exception to this rule; indeed, in most respects, the Italians were the pacesetters in the art of government, and the Italian states generally developed a greater bureaucratic power to intervene in the lives of their citizens, for good or ill, than was to be found in the other states of the time. This relative efficiency was made easier by a difference in scale. While the kingdoms and principalities of northern Europe or Spain struggled to assert their control over a largely rural population scattered over areas measured in tens of thousands of square miles, in Italy, outside the kingdom of Naples and Sicily and some of the fringe areas of the north, the typical state consisted of a principal city and the surrounding region, extending to between a thousand and two thousand square miles only, sometimes considerably less. To put this in another way, while a northern king or duke might need up to a week to march from one part of his territory to another, a day’s hard riding would normally suffice to travel from the average city to the furthest point of its contado, and up to a third of the population of the city-state might be living within earshot of the council-bell.


Thirteenth Century Twelfth Century Italian State Early Modern Period Local Church 
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© J. K. Hyde 1973

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  • J. K. Hyde

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