Tuesday, May 20

Florence, 1100-1532, What a Republic!

Kannu Choti

Florence is one of the cities that I'm desperate to visit. It's high on my list. Along with Venice. It's an extraordinary cornucopia of artistic riches. And has a history that is literally breathtaking. 

We have read so much about Florence and it's grandeur that it's unbelievable that one city can actually absorb so much brilliance. And not just one or two people kids but it had people who were from all walks of life and all areas of human endeavour. 

The below mentioned example of Florence's political development is brilliant. We are citizens of a liberal democracy with a constitutional monarchy sitting over the elected members, judiciary and executive. Yes people quibble about which model is good, like the American one or the French one but the weight of history is something to consider. Very important. 

Fascinating background to Florence. We will go there soon :) 



Mike Anderson's Ancient History Blog: Florence, 1100-1532, What a Republic!

Florence, in this blog? I thought this was supposed to be ancient history! Yes, but sometimes we can find value when we compare political systems from different times in history. The Republic of Florence an interesting case to compare to Republican Rome, because it gives us another example of how men try to build stable governments. Florence was a city republic like Rome but it was never able to expand in the same way because of the circumstances of its time. Still, its leaders faced the same challenges the Romans did – socio-economic class differences, economic interests, and cultural influences. In my last post I mentioned that those designing Republics, including America’s founding fathers, went to great lengths to insure their infant political systems would not revert to monarchies through the consolidation of power. Florence stands as an extreme case of this paranoia.

As one of the great merchant cities of the middle ages (Pisa or Antwerp would be other examples), Florence escaped participation in the feudal system because it had a strong capitalist engine and could operate as an independent political system. Feudalism could only take root where bureaucracy failed and it did not fail there. The Florentine political system certainly had its ups and downs, but it was business that moved Florence forward and politics were regulated by business.

By the year 900 A.D, the great cities of Europe had been weakened to a point where it was necessary to start from scratch. Commerce and artisanship had to be rekindled by recruiting citizens with the right skills from the outside, mostly from the agrarian economies of the surrounding territory. Florence always found aristocratic control unacceptable, so any tendency in that direction was continually resisted. Its leaders were a new class of man; middle class merchants we call burghers, who were independent, entrepreneurial, and confident. Between the years of 900 and 1250, these burghers turned Florence into an autonomous institution by resisting and expelling those who would attempt to impose on them some kind of hierarchical model of government. They were aided in this effort by the emperors and popes who wasted time and money fighting among themselves for control of Italy rather than attacking the city.

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