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Extra info for Society and Politics in Medieval Italy: The Evolution of the Civil Life, 1000–1350

Sample text

Finally, an ideal book on this subject would have contained much more about the church and the complex role which it played in every facet of life; the research for such a book would have taken at least ten years, and the reader must be content with some suggestions and observations which are intended to do little more than suggest the lines along which further inquiries might proceed. -2 1. The Social Foundations of Medieval Italy The Slow Death of Roman Italy AMoNG the first impressions likely to be formed by a visitor to Italy, especially if he comes from northern Europe or North America, is of the abrupt transition between mountain and plain and between city and countryside.

2 SOCIETY AND POLITICS IN MEDIEVAL ITALY between mountain and plain, with the cities cast in the active and dominant role and the rural areas in a largely passive one. The relationship has, in fact, been portrayed very much in this way in many books about Italy, the work both of Italians whose education imbued them with an outlook which equates cities with all that is civilised and worthy of study, and also by non-Italians misled by appearances and, perhaps, by preconceptions formed in their own countries.

While in other regions the mountain zones fell under the economic and political hegemony of the plains, the regions of the middle hills were still intensely cultivated and, at least until the economic crises of the fourteenth century, they supported a surprisingly dense population. In these areas, the hills with their castles, which were not merely military strong points but fortified towns, presented a constant challenge to the cities of the plains; in the high mountains, the problems of law and order on which city governments expended much effort and expense were virtually insoluble under medieval conditions.

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