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16. Citizens and Freedom in Medieval Sicily

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Chapter Summary

The historiographical debate regarding medieval Sicily, especially in its urban dimension, includes studies which are markedly anachronistic and/or teleological in approach. Recently, Robert Putnam has posited a strong link between the economic and political outcomes in present-day southern Italy and presumed balances in the Middle Ages. This chapter argues that in the later Middle Ages in Sicily there was considerable scope for independent civic activity and for the involvement of local communities in government policy. It presents a general account of the urban communities on the island, highlighting their autonomy and the forms assumed by their confrontation with the Crown. The chapter also corroborates this demonstration through the study of a specific case, endorsing the well-known assertion of Thomas Bisson that "the history of power is to be sought in its microcosms and its locales.

Keywords: government policy; independent civic activity; medieval Sicily; Robert Putnam; Thomas Bisson; urban communities



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