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Status and Lived Experience in Medieval Italian Communes

Abstract

Throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the communes of Florence and Bologna opened participation in government to large portions of their adult male populations. As these efforts to broaden political power unfolded, popular régimes sought to protect their monopolies on political power by targeting specific groups for exclusion from a variety of civic offices and membership in popular associations. Foreigners and urban knights known as magnates were frequent targets in Florence and Bologna. In this dissertation, I draw on the rich archives of Bologna and Florence to explore how magnates and foreigners encountered and reacted to their imposed statuses. Magnates tended to respond to their status by either reconciling with the commune and becoming rehabilitated or attempting to reassert their power through opportunistic violence. The financial strain that magnates and foreigners lived under could be made significantly more difficult if they were heavily indebted. While magnates tended to have more access to wealth, it is less clear how foreigners created systems of support in societies that were increasingly becoming more closed off to them. To counter this, foreigners sought out support by becoming parts of economic networks through their involvement in transactions. Foreigners also turned to systems of mutual aid and support that were not limited to any single occupation group or administrative division to build and reinforce community networks.

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