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Liberty and urban revolts: A comparative perspective

Lantschner, P; (2020) Liberty and urban revolts: A comparative perspective. Edad Media , 21 pp. 57-79. 10.24197/EM.21.2020.57-79. Green open access

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Abstract

Ever since the nineteenth century, historians have seen a close connection between the urban revolts of the later Middle Ages and the 'liberty' urban rebels hoped to gain in ways that recalled the role of liberty as a central idea in modern revolutions. This article analyses what liberty could have meant to later medieval urban rebels in a close-up analysis of revolts in the two most urbanised regions of later medieval Europe, Italy and the Southern Low Countries. It is argued, first, that the slogan 'libertas' often had a particular meaning when it was invoked by rebels, usually in revolts against external rulers. Although their opponents frequently accused rebels of seeking complete independence, rebels often invoked this slogan to ask for the greater autonomy of urban political institutions within, rather than independence from, a larger jurisdictional framework. Second, liberty was not necessarily a central concern in all urban revolts. In the Ciompi revolt of Florence, for instance, demands about the provision of justice were much more important than demands revolving around the notion of liberty. In fact, when city-dwellers rebelled against 'tyrants' they may not have primarily thought of tyranny as the absence of freedom, but as the perceived violation of a legal order..

Type: Article
Title: Liberty and urban revolts: A comparative perspective
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.24197/EM.21.2020.57-79
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10091654
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