A comparison of city‐states north and south of the Alps reveals more dissimilarities (over the role of the church, landholding versus jurisdictional lordship, rural citizenship, and jurisdictional exclusivity) than congruities. Typologies of the city‐state drawn from political and social science are too schematic, too chronologically static, and too likely to privilege capital accumulation over territorial consolidation. The city‐states survived despite fewer resources and smaller size than monarchical states: they did not ‘lose at war’. City‐states continued, regardless of nomenclature: both regional and dynastic city‐states remained embedded in a world of civic and mercantile values. The framework for understanding invites a regional model combining chronology and spatiality, in which over time fiscal and military imperatives outweighed commercial and political‐legal ones, though northern cities often continued to exert power through jurisdictional rights rather than control of territory.
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