Italy Federiciana Part 4
It is not easy to give a factual depth to these celebratory evaluations, to verify precisely the levels of economic wealth and the social articulation of Italy in the early thirteenth century: in the eyes of the historian, who works on the sources, the state of the latter makes so that the Italy of those times was just as tarnished as it was, for different reasons, in the eyes of its sovereigns. In particular, it is problematic to accurately weigh the economic and social situation of the early thirteenth century in the overall evolution of Italian economic development. This is because that situation stands out on the basis of a very long-term development trend, the first symptoms of which can even be traced back to the recovery between the seventh and eighth centuries, to the ethnic and settlement settlement following the upheavals of the Greek-Gothic war and the Lombard conquests. According to Itypetravel, the most important symptom of that remote recovery is recognized in the progressive development of village settlements and in the manifestations of vitality of urban society, in a framework of city settlements fundamentally modeled on the Hellenistic and Roman order. The crescendo of written documentation starting from the eighth century. allows us to grasp a slow parallel growth of city and rural society, and then, from the end of the 9th century. and throughout the 10th century, a large part of rural society organized around castles, which were at the same time typical forms of settlement and nuclei of judicial, military, administrative and fiscal power over rural residents. From last generation of the tenth century. a series of political movements of important cities and ofrural elites organized around the local aristocracies of the milites or families of high aristocracy represents the symptom of a social progress that had the support of an economic growth whose dynamics remain very obscure. No clear break around the year 1000, from the point of view of economic and demic development, but certainly a new social mobility and a new dialectic between the economic growth of families and ways of organizing political life: with the affirmation, in the countryside, of teams of milites, the consolidation of noble dynasties of different levels around family churches and monasteries and around the castles that continued to proliferate in the Italian territories; and in cities with the growth of elites sometimes antagonistic towards the bishops and their power apparatuses, with respect to which organized citizens claimed jurisdictional prerogatives and fiscal assets – all this well before expressing a governing body in the colleges of consuls, attested between the last twenty years of the 11th and the middle of the 12th century.
Until the mid-twelfth century. Italian economic and social development was therefore a parallel development of rural and urban classes, in the North as well as in the South, with many moments of exchange both of goods and products and of residents. During the twelfth century. Two tendencies were expressed, one on the economic level and one on the level of the political organization of the territories, which would have altered the picture and would have given, at the age of Frederick II, a dialectic between economy and society which was still innovated with respect to previous mutations. In economic activity, against the background of a slowly increasing agricultural productivity and a consequent demographic expansion, credit relationships were established, sporadically documented in a still very weak situation of written documentation but with a evidence as isolated as it is sensational and significant in the Genoese notarial registers of the mid-century, where hundreds of mortgage contracts, commercial loans, loans for purchase and consumption, forward sales, monetary exchange rates give the sense of a growing demand for money and the now current and structural recourse to the monetary instrument and the deferral of payments to deal with an ‘inflationary’ situation, that is a demand for goods, services and works which was followed more or less laboriously or promptly by a offer of money. In the age of Frederick Barbarossa the minting of silver coins stronger than the current money was an important expression and symptom of this situation, and from the years 1170 and 1180 it can be ascertained,
Against this background a succession of conflicts, more frequent and harsh than in the past, took place between central authorities, or aspiring ones, and peripheries. Southern Italy saw the structuring of the strong Norman monarchy, with wars first for the affirmation of the Regio-Norman power, then, from 1186 until around 1220, for the affirmation of Swabian power: the wars were waged against great aristocrats and against castles and cities of ancient autonomist tradition, they saw ferocious sieges and devastations and had an overall economic outcome of which it is difficult to reconstruct the balance between the destruction of resources on the one hand and, on the other, the positive induced determined by financial needs and military. In most of the Northern and central Italy began to open a gap between urban and rural developments. The gap was from these beginnings of a political nature, because in the tension to organize the forms of command over men and territories the cities slowly gained the upper hand over the local noble dominations that were centered on castles dominated by aristocratic families and churccic and widespread war situation was created: war between a city and the lords of its territory and war between neighboring cities and competitors in their own expansion of power. This situation determined a growing importance of the classes of milites, increasingly recruited in the city, and new financial needs: the formation of an urban tax system, in which the indebtedness of public authorities was already crucial, increased the role of credit, and a large part of urban residents found themselves in the situation of both debtor, as a taxpayer, and creditor, because involved in the financing of the public treasury, which was fed with forced or voluntary loans, stipulated with the citizens themselves or with bankers and merchants of external cities.