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The urban renaissance

Since the early Middle Ages, urban life in Europe was virtually nonexistent. Most Roman
cities (or boroughs) became part of a suzerainty and its population was drastically
reduced. However, from the twelfth century this situation changed due to population
growth, increased wealth and the revival of trade. The revival of trade turned the cities in
poles of attraction of a huge amount of merchants and peasants. In some cases, such as
in southern France and Italy, the feudal lords abandoned their castles to reside in cities.
Also, some wealthy merchants began buying peerages.
Features of medieval towns
The medieval towns had particular characteristics. Some of them were:
1. Were situated near a river, sea or important to facilitate trade and communication path;
also they had walls to defend against enemy attacks.
2. There were no sewage systems; therefore, people got their water from wells and canals
that brought water from the rivers.
3. The houses always had three floors: the first stone was used as a workshop and store;
the second and the third were wooden and served room.
4. They emphasized, for its size, the churches, the episcopal palace and then communal
palace or administrative center.
5. In the central city market, where commercial activity was developed.
The bourgeoisie and the unions
The protagonists of the development of cities were its inhabitants, who formed a new
social class: the bourgeoisie. This was distinguished from the nobility and the peasantry
because its members accumulated wealth employed in jobs other than farming. The
emergence of this new social class meant breaking the rigid framework of feudal society.
Most of the bourgeoisie were merchants and craftsmen. The latter had various trades
(bakers, blacksmiths, carpenters, tailors, etc.) and organized in unions to protect their
interests. Guilds fixed manufacturing procedures, labor standards, working hours and
wages. Also they regulated the skill in the job: guarding officers met the required years
of learning to perform their work. The trainee should remain about ten years in the
workshop of a master to access the rank of officer.

The city government


The prosperity of cities allowed the bourgeois freedom from domination of the feudal
lords. At first they began uprisings, but then found a more effective mechanism: they
began to provide financial support for the Kings to get them letters of freedom, which
placed the city under royal authority and subtracted the control of feudal lords. This
arrangement suited them to kings, as well as weakening the great nobles.

Freedom letters authorizing cities to administer justice for themselves and to grant
freedoms to its people. They also obtained the right to govern themselves, allowing them
to form communal governments that received different names: City Hall, manor or
commune. Although initially the city was equal space in which all citizens enjoy the same
rights, they soon began to emerge between rich and poor. The most prosperous,
especially those engaged in industry and trade in cloth and luxury items, became the
most influential in the government of cities characters. Thus he was born the concept of
citizen of that time: it was the inhabitant who enjoyed rights and freedoms urban, had the
resources to pay a special tax and had a house in the city.