Dual Government Systems in Italy

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There have been many political crises over the centuries where the people of a country have risen against inequality, demanding rights and a fair chance at citizenship. The Roman Republic, the Italian city-states, and the French Revolution all share common themes of equality. In Italy, after the beginning of the 13th century, dual government systems became necessary in many city-states to satisfy the guildsmen, who were tired of a despotic régime under the old aristocratic families. The 12th century had been a period of control for the aristocrats, who held every title in the government offices of their city, and held power over the rest of the city’s inhabitants. It was the nobility who held the power because holding office required wealth and freedom. Many Italian city-states became wealthy and more independent, and by the 13th century the commoners were acting upon the socio-political injustice that they faced. They, known as the popolo, wanted to participate in the commune, the government formed by the nobility of the city. Had the noble families not agreed to share the governance, the city itself would be plunged into warring factions, each vying for political dominance. Four city-states in particular created oligarchies in the middle of the 14th century to retain their wealth and independence: Florence, Siena, Rome, and Genoa. These city-states, however, were not consistently oligarchic – the nobility did not give up its authority so easily, and there was always a power-play between the two social parties. In the early 14th century, Florentine government was controlled by the nobility who had slowly been corrupting the city and emptying it of wealth. By 1340, the popolo was in conflict against the nobles, seeking a shared... ... middle of paper ... ...Italian city-state geared for war: urban knights and the cavallata of Todi.” Journal of Medieval History 39, no. 2 (2013): 240-253. Law, John E., and Bernadette Paton. Communes and Despots in Medieval and Renaissance Italy. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2010. Morreale, Laura K. “French Literature, Florentine Politics, and Vernacular Historical Writing, 1270-1348.” Speculum 85, no. 4 (2010): 868-893. Najemy, John M. Italy in the Age of the Renaissance. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Piper, David. The Illustrated History of Art. London: Bounty Books, 2004. Rosenwein, Barbara H. Reading the Middle Ages. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010. Staley, Edgcumbe. Guilds of Florence. London: Methuen & Co., 1906. Stern, Laura Ikins. “Politics and Law in Renaissance Florence and Venice.” The American Journal of Legal History 46, no. 2 (2004): 209-234.

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