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wool carders and other hired workers in cloth-making shops in Florence and various other Italian cities in the 14th century. The ciompi constituted approximately 25 percent of the population of Florence. They worked 14–16 hours a day; their extremely low wages were in reality reduced further by a harsh system of fines and did not amount to a living wage. Shop owners had the right to discharge ciompi from their jobs without warning. The ciompi were not guild members and therefore had no political rights. Their ranks were replenished by impoverished peasants and artisans.
In 1345 a spontaneous strike of the ciompi took place in Florence, and in 1371 there were disturbances in Perugia and Siena.
In 1378 the ciompi of Florence mounted a revolt, which was joined by small-scale artisans; the revolt lasted from June 22 to August 31. The most important demands of the ciompi were for a 50-percent increase in wages and the granting of political rights—the securing of one-fourth of the seats in the government and the post of gonfalonier of justice, the formation of a ciompi guild (which would have granted the ciompi full citizenship), the formation of a people’s militia, and the establishment of equality of all inhabitants of the city. The rebels seized the palace of the podesta, drove the government from its residence, and formed a new government composed of three ciompi, three small-scale artisans, and three members of the popolo grasso (rich urban upper class). The ciompi formed a people’s militia and a ciompi guild. The popolo grasso managed to have Michele di Lando, who had been a wool carder and overseer of hired workers prior to the revolt, made head of the government. With Michele di Lando in power, they were able to organize a starvation blockade of the city; the owners of the cloth-making shops, which had been closed since the first days of the revolt, refused to open their shops, and the ciompi were thus left wihtout any means of earning a living.
In August 1378, having ascertained that Michele di Lando had betrayed them, the ciompi formed a new revolutionary government (called the Eight Saints of the People of God), headed by the wool carder Bartolo di Jacopo. They tried to seize power, demanding that the old government submit to the new. Michele di Lando helped the popólo grasso bring troops up to the city. At this stage of the revolt the small-scale artisans, frightened by the radical nature of the ciompi program, deserted the ciompi. The revolt was suppressed, and its leaders were executed.
The ciompi revolt demonstrated the relatively high (for the 14th century) level of political consciousness of the Italian pre-proletariat, which was the first in European history to demand political rights and thus paved the way for the concept of universal equality.
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V. I. RUTENBURG