When Do Rulers Delegate Powers to Jurisdictions? The Independence of Medieval European Cities
39 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2012
Date Written: January 1, 2012
During the Middle Ages European cities were to various degrees independent from their territorial rulers. This paper investigates the overlord’s decision making with regard to the independence of cities. I argue that in return for tax payments territorial rulers delegated the supervision of cities to groups – mostly merchants – that were better equipped to foster productive activities within the city limits. Merchants had superior knowledge to implement attractive rules for the settlement of conflicts and faced institutions that reduced the potential for public predation. I further argue that rulers of smaller territories, who faced relatively mobile subjects, tended to delegate more powers to cities. I provide evidence in support of my contentions from Western Europe during the high and late Middle Ages.
Keywords: autonomous cities, Middle Ages, city institutions, self-government
JEL Classification: N93, D02, P48
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation