Social Networking in Medieval Italian Towns
By Sara Mangiapane
Columbia Undergraduate Journal of History – Published Online (2008)
Introduction: To my knowledge there is no English historical source that compiles and attempts to analyze the various types of social networking and their effects on the Italian medieval town. Except for kinship and lineage, which has been extensively studied, analyses of vertical ties, that is clientage and patronage that linked non-kinsmen across all social classes, can generally be found in fragments within a larger argument. Although historians acknowledge the vital role of clientage within medieval Italian society and attribute it to profound social, political, and economic changes, their references provide no clear definition of what this social phenomenon was, how it was formed, and the different characteristics that existed. For instance, Trevor Dean in his essay “The Rise of the Signoria” attributes the failure of communal governments to “the practices of clientage and patronage” that “sought to turn state offices and resources to private gain.”1But the importance of such a claim becomes lost in the wider context of his essay for he does not elaborate upon how these “practices” developed and functioned. Thus the reader is left with a vague and incomplete understanding of clientele networking.