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The Invisible Hand?How Market Economies have Emerged and Declined Since AD 500$
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Bas van Bavel

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199608133

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199608133.001.0001

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Markets in Medieval City-States

Markets in Medieval City-States

The Centre and North of Italy, 1000–1500

(p.97) 3 Markets in Medieval City-States
The Invisible Hand?

Bas van Bavel

Oxford University Press

The communal revolts and social movements in the centre and north of Italy had by the twelfth century resulted in a situation of relative freedom and equality, in which many of the traditional restrictions on the (market) exchange of land, labour, and capital were removed. Land and lease markets sprang up. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, these were used by townsmen to expand their rural landholdings and to make them profitable through a type of sharecropping, mezzadria, in which the tenants retained almost no economic agency. The urban elites further expanded their wealth through their dealings in the developing capital markets. This enabled them to secure a hold on the heavily indebted city-states and, next, to use their political leverage to further strengthen their hold over land, capital, and labour, in part by coercion. At the same time, after a long period of florescence, the economy declined again.

Keywords:   Italy, communal revolts, freedom, sharecropping, Renaissance, mercenaries, urban landholding, public debts

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