Anniversary Essays in Mediaeval History

Anniversary Essays in Mediaeval History

Anniversary Essays in Mediaeval History

Anniversary Essays in Mediaeval History

Excerpt

In the history of the rise of the communal movement, the period of the crusades is universally accepted as the greatest age for the development of communal institutions, and the crusades themselves are generally considered to have given a powerful impetus thereto. When we turn to the East, however, we find that while the most important part of the life of the Levantine principalities founded by the crusaders was in the cities, the communal movement as such never took firm hold in any of them, and some historians of the crusades have gone so far as to assert that there were never any communes in Syria. While others, such as Rey and Luchaire, tacitly admit the existence of communes, no one has to my knowledge made any study of the communes which developed in the crusading states in the thirteenth century, and it is the purpose of this essay to consider the reasons why the communal movement failed in general to develop in Syria, at the same time pointing out that communes, in the sense of sworn associations for municipal government, did exist in at least three of the cities of Frankish Outremer.

Several causes explain the lack of communal development in the cities ruled by the crusaders. One was undoubtedly the extremely precarious position of the cities and their constant need for military protection, a need which made the burgesses, who wished to expend their efforts on commerce and industry, more willing to leave the government of their cities to those lords who defended them. When the communes did develop, it was because defence and protection were not provided by the lord of the town. Thus Antioch founded her commune in 1194 when Leo II of Armenia was attacking the city and when Bohemond was a prisoner. The commune of Acre was organized in 1231 to strengthen the resistance against Richard Filanger, Frederick's bailli in Syria, and was a part of the general resistance of the Ibelin faction against the Imperialists . . .

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