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From Democracy to Autocracy: The Lessons of Medieval Italy

HIS 591

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In the face of a power vacuum caused by the struggle between the German Empire and the Papacy, dozens of cities of medieval Italy formed autonomous communes governed by popularly elected assemblies. These flourished for centuries, laying the foundations for the culture of humanism and the Renaissance. In the later Middle Ages, however, most of these communes were taken over by autocrats - only a few survived as self-governing republics into the modern era. A comparison of these examples can offer a basis for understanding the fate of democratic governments in succeeding periods and today.
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Section S01