- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 1, 1969)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691007608
- ISBN-13: 978-0691007601
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
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#587,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #255 in Books > Textbooks > Social Sciences > Political Science > Civil Rights
- #1303 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Specific Topics > Civil Rights & Liberties
- #1693 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > International & World Politics > European
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Medieval Cities: Their Origins and the Revival of Trade
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"An indispensable complement to the confusing history of the Carolingian period and early days of European civic development. . . . In short, it is one of the best sort of contributions to historical writing--those which combine simplicity with erudition and imagination with accuracy."--New Statesman (London)
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The cities of the ancient world had very little in common with the cities of today. The cities of ancient Greece and Rome were not places of commerce but places of government. The heart of the ancient city was the public square--the forum--where wealthy landowners discussed politics and farming. The ruling elite were administrative, military, and religious officials. The merchants and craftsmen who supplied their needs were mostly non-citizens and slaves. In contrast, the heart of the medieval city was the marketplace. Democratic Greece and the glory that was Rome were based on slavery; the medieval city was based on commerce.
Pirenne traces the history of the city and how it evolved from a city of government to what it became in the thirteenth century and still is to today, a city of commerce. The rise of trade brought about the drastic change--an economic revolution. Pirenne cites Venice as an example. Forced to live on the barren islets of a lagoon off the coast of northern Italy, Venetians had to tax their ingenuity to survive. Trade was thus forced upon them by the very conditions under which they lived. Trade was the making of Venice, as it would be for countless cities across Europe. What began as little more than a meeting place where traders exchanged goods, grew to become cities, not dependent upon kings or the church for their welfare, but upon business. Business leaders emerged to regulate commerce, create trade unions, form municipal governments, collect taxes, pave streets, erect bridges, dig canals, construct public buildings, and provide for the protection of its inhabitants. Cities created jobs and thus were magnates to runaway serfs who escaped the captivity of feudal lords. Life in the city meant freedom and a job, learning a trade, and a chance to move up the social and economic ladder. The expression "The air of the city makes free" is from this time. The city also created the middle class (or the bourgeoisie as it become known) which in turn created democratic government that, for the first time, was not dependent on slavery. The bourgeoisie started public education, funded the renaissance, built cathedrals and universities, sponsored the arts, created banking and capitalism, financed exploration, and laid the groundwork for the modern world.
Reading Pirenne, I can't help thinking of my radical college buddies back in the 1960s who preached socialism and despaired of the money-minded bourgeoisie as the cause of all the nation's ills. Had the revolution come as they dreamed it would, today they would be living as Pol Pot, Mao and Stalin intended--as serfs laboring in the fields. Today, they hold down cushy middle-class jobs while planning a vacation in Europe and spending their retirement years in Florida.
Become enlightened: find out the source of prosperity and democracy: read "Medieval Cities" and Pirenne's two other books ("Economic and Social History of Medieval Europe" and "Mohammed and Charlemagne"). Five big stars.
When the crusades and Italian city-states started to take the sea lanes back these cities now had access to trade from the East and went back to using gold coins again. Many turned back to the old methods that had survived, mostly the Roman institutions, but during the time of decline new ways had been invented. The European cities had a middle class and rich merchants, besides the nobles and serfs. Now the cities were to become a mixture of new and old, Roman laws mixed with guilds and population growth. Cities were no longer just military posts and government centers. They became places to live in, work in, invest in and worship in.
The book is a must for any lover of history, World history or European history. It is simple, moves swiftly and even has some humor.
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Some of the observations herein are astounding in their blunt...Mohammed and CharlemagneRead more