Urban History

Review of periodical articles

Review of periodical articles


a1 Department of History, Durham University, 43 North Bailey, Durham, DH1 3EX

a2 School of Humanities, University of Derby, Kedleston Road, Derby, DE22 1GB

a3 History, School of Humanities, Swansea University, Swansea, SA2 8PP

This review begins with a subject that is familiar to all urban historians of the Middle Ages. Citizenship was one of the most ubiquitous forms of social and political organization in medieval towns. Yet, as Pierre Racine points out, in ‘La citoyenneté en Italie au Moyen Âge’, Le Moyen Âge, 115 (2009), 87–108, it is perhaps surprising that there have been so few studies devoted specifically to the right of citizenship in the Italian cities of the communal period. Racine's discussion is focused upon the period between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, that is, from the formation of the communes to the emergence of princely states in northern and central Italy, when many of the city-states disappeared. If citizenship was in some ways a burden which entailed liability to taxation and the fulfilment of military service, it was fundamentally a privilege. Thus, the thirteenth-century communal governments of cities such as Piacenza appointed officials charged with investigating cases of ‘false citizens’. Citizenship was acquired largely on the basis of more or less permanent residence and the ownership of a house in the city and it allowed the citizen to participate in the popular assembly, where the important questions concerning the election of officials and the problems of daily life were debated and decided. In emphasizing the emotional attachment which citizens felt towards their urban patria, Racine addresses the cultural as well as juridical meaning of citizenship.