Why was Northern Italy so much in the forefront of urban self-government?

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Why was Northern Italy so much in the forefront of urban self-government?

There were various reasons for the ability of certain towns in Italy to establish a certain amount of self-government. The location of the maritime cities such as Genoa was able to benefit from the crusades making them powerful. This resulted in a knock on effect to the main inland towns and cities in the north due to increase in trade. This caused prosperity and growth, because of this and also because of certain socio-economic changes originating in the countryside, the cities and towns started to break away from the old feudal systems and look to a new order more beneficial to the newly formed city classes. Their ability to consolidate this new government was due in part to the political upheaval which existed between state and church. This can be seen within the conflict of Henry IV and Gregory VII.

The concept of self-government showed a major change in power within the Northern towns of Italy. The traditional feudal system was replaced by a "commune", where all orders would share al rights and powers in common. This was implemented by an elected consul, where as before Kings such as the Lombard's installed governors to rule, or at other times a powerful Archbishop would be the ruling power. This can be seen in the rule of Archbishop Ansperte 868-81, (Ella Noyles p16)

By the time of the 12th century, cities such as Milan had a government loosely based on the old Roman regime. This was a three tier system consisting of Captains - the higher nobility and clergy; the vassals- the lower nobility and an increasing middle class formed of merchants and land leasers; and the common people such as the artisans and peasants. A consul was elected to govern the commune and was re-elected every year. This consul was elected by all three orders not just the elite. This is what existed for self-government in the eleventh and twelfth century.

The existence of self-government in the Northern Italian towns and cities was possible due to various reasons. In part it was location. The first crusades brought huge amounts of people and wealth into the maritime cities such as Genoa Pisa and also Venice. In consequence a great amount of trade was stimulated throughout Northern Italy and toward the inland towns and cities of Milan, Florence Ravenna and Pad ova to name a few.

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