Urban society and communal independence in twelfth-century southern Italy
This study offers a broad exploration of urban society in twelfth-century mainland Southern Italy. It does so primarily through a comparative and in depth analysis of around eight cities of varying size, function and tradition, supported by relevant material from a handful of other urban centres. The findings are based on detailed investigation of the vast charter material combined with a wide range of other important narrative and literary sources. The aim of the study is essentially divided into two main themes. Firstly, to investigate the development of urban government throughout this critical period for the South, above all by ascertaining what role the local community played in its own government and to uncover any continuities and discontinuities. Secondly, to look below the level of political organization and explore the social ordering and economic activities of the urban community and the interaction which took place between its varied constituent groups. Also within this sphere, the aim is to analyze contact between the urban community and the Church and to trace the development of civic identity. It will be argued that, although Southern Italy was subject to a number of regime changes, civil wars and rebellions during the twelfth-century, a notable range of continuities can be traced within the cities both at a political, social and economic level throughout the period. Such a finding should encourage further revision of the traditional interpretation that the creation of a unified 'Norman' kingdom of Sicily in 1130 marked a drastic and deleterious watershed in all aspects of urban development. It suggests that the cities were still able to enjoy a level of autonomy within the monarchy in those affairs that were most important to their inhabitants. Moreover by emphasizing the fluidity of the social structures and groups found in these cities, alongside the powerful role of both the Church and civic consciousness, this study underlines the multi-layered complexity of the urban communities of Southern Italy.