Week 16: Tuesday, February 16, 2016
The Rebirth of the Cities after the Dark Ages


On and around the year 1000 AD the cities of Europe, and especially of Italy, turn a corner. After centuries of war and invasion, almost suddenly, there is peace. Travel on land ad sea is safer. Products move around more easily. People move around more easily. And thus during the Eleventh Century, there is a general resurgence of the European economy and especially that of the cities. The cities grow fast. They expand fast. They build bigger walls. They build huge new cathedrals and huge new city halls like the building on the right, the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. In order to understand this phenomenon we will take one Italian city, Florence, and tell its story from the end of the Roman Empire in the sixth century to the great expansion of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Of all the possible choices for our study, Florence has a major advantage for our study: it was a Roman founded city, it declined as Rome declined, it surged back as all of Europe and Italy rebounded in the eleventh century. Its trajectory reveals exactly the Italian story of so many other cities.


The expansion of Florence in the Middle Ages.


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,