Week 10: Tuesday, December 15, 2015
The Birth of the Maritime Republics


The most dramatic evidence of the rebirth of Italy after the Dark Ages is the sudden appearance of five or six new centers of power and trade in cites on the Italian coasts, both east and west. Cities like Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa, and Ancona (Venice is a different story) suddenly spring into being almost without slow growth or evolution. Some were former small Roman colonies like Pisa, but others are essentially new centers born between 800 and 1000. These cities came to life for one reason above all other reasons: Italian navies took back control of the central Mediterranean from Islamic raiders that had harassed the Italian coasts for 300 years. Now in the eleventh century, Italy took control of its own waters and the first beneficiaries were the very cities that had paid for the navies, manned the ships, fought the battles. What was most important about these new growing cities is that they were democracies; republics; maritime republics. Thus here in these cities by the sea was born a vigorous defense of personal liberty and civic liberty in opposition to the landed barons out in the countryside.


This two-volume history of Florence is the best detailed study of one part of Italy for the period we are studying this year. Schevill wrote a masterpiece of well researched narrative history for Florence in 1936 and then it was republished in a Harper Torchbook paperback in 1961. The Harper Torchbook is still out there in used book stores so we have purchase five for our library. But there are still copies left if you want to own one. It is two volumes with the first volume devoted to our period of Medieval History and the second volume on Renaissance Florence.  For the Lombards see Medieval Florence (Volume 1) Chapter Three, "Darkness Over Florence."

Ferdinand Schevill,

Medieval and Renaissance Florence,

Harper Torchbook paperback, 1963, 2 volumes,



The Maritime Republics.

MONDAY DECEMBER 22, 2014 to JANUARY 3, 2015


No class during weeks of Dec 23 (Tues), and Dec 30 (Tues)

Winter Quarter begins Mon. Jan 6, 2014.