(from Italian popolo, “the people”), the strata of shopkeepers and artisans who, united in guilds, existed in the cities of North and Central Italy in the 12th to 16th centuries. The popolani waged a successful struggle against the feudal lords at the turn of the 13th century and by the mid-13th century gained control of the most advanced cities, including Bologna (in 1245), Florence (1250), and Perugia (1258). In the city-states where popolani authority was firmly established, elective rule by representatives of the guilds was instituted. This rule depended on the support of armed detachments of townsmen. At the end of the 13th century, the feudal lords in these cities were deprived of political rights through the legislative process (People’s Statutes of Siena, 1277; Ordinances of Justice of Florence, 1293).
By the 14th century, a clear-cut division between the rich urban upper class, or popolo grasso, and the lower-class artisans, or popolo minuto, had emerged within the popolani. The popolo minuto, together with hired laborers, took action against the popolo grasso in Perugia and Siena in 1371 and in Florence in 1378. This prompted the rich popolani to forge an alliance with the feudal lords against popular movements. In the 15th century, when the signory system predominated, the role of the popolani diminished. The Catholic reaction in Italy in the 16th century led to a renewal of the social struggle of the popolani in Friuli (1509–11) and Genoa (1575).
REFERENCESGukovskii, M. A. Ital’ianskoe Vozrozhdenie, vol. 1. Leningrad, 1947. Pages 47–60, 80–84, and 161–67.
Rutenburg, V. I. Narodnye dvizheniia ν gorodakh Italii: XIV-nach. XV vv. Moscow-Leningrad, 1958. Pages 72–73 and 293–327.
Rutenburg, V. I. Italiia i Evropa nakanune novogo vremeni. Leningrad, 1974. Pages 119–188.
Batkin, L. M. “Gvel’fy i gibelliny vo Florentsii.” In the collection Srednie veka, issue 16. Moscow, 1959.
V. I. RUTENBURG