The History of Medieval Europe

By Lynn Thorndike; James T. Shotwell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIX
FRENCH, FLEMISH, ENGLISH, AND GERMAN TOWNS

OF the towns beyond the Alps those of southern France were on the whole older than the others, more closely connected with the Roman past and with Mediterranean trade, and also most like the Italian cities in their government. Like them they included both nobles and common people and were at first governed by consuls, of whom we begin to hear about 1120. These magistrates, usually twelve in number, were chosen annually, but seldom by the votes of all the townsmen. Sometimes they practically nominated their successors, and sometimes the bishop or feudal lord had retained a share in the town government and had a voice in their selection. Associated with these annual magistrates was a fairly large advisory council, drawn also chiefly from the patriciate of knights and wealthy burghers who had taken the lead in establishing the municipality. Sometimes, however, a larger assembly of citizens was called together. The southern towns did a deal of legislation and recorded their statutes at length, but this did not prevent them from tinkering with them at frequent intervals. The Italian influence in southern France was further shown by the fact that early in the thirteenth century the office of podestà spread from Italy to several cities of Provence.

Consular towns of southern France

The Provençals and the Catalans of ports like Montpellier and Barcelona in the Kingdom of Aragon were close seconds to the Italians in Mediterranean trade. There was a "port of the Provençals" on the southern coast of Asia Minor and they had a street in each of the Syrian ports. Marseilles traded much with northern Africa and its sailors were the first to venture straight across the Mediterranean instead of skirting the coast of Italy. Narbonne profited by the trade route be-

Trade of the southern French Towns

-357-

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