The Territorial Strategy of the Italian City-State

Italian City State - Florence
Italian City State - Florence
Italian City State – Florence

The Territorial Strategy of the Italian City-State

Darshan Vigneswaran (University of Witwatersrand, South Africa)

International Relations: (2007) 21: 427


Long-term studies of European history address the origins and evolution of state territoriality. Some scholars have suggested that the late medieval revival of European cities engendered variation in this region’s territorial practices. However, their work struggles to explain the origins, nature and demise of the territorially ‘fragmented’ Italian city-states. This study addresses this gap by shifting focus from the city’s economic functions to the state-building process occurring within Italian urban walls. It shows that Italian rulers deliberately ‘centralised’ their resources to challenge the violent actors and military installations that had become concentrated in town. This analysis strengthens the argument that coercive factors drove the early evolution of European territoriality. The work uses these findings to create fresh lines of inquiry for research on variation in modern territorial forms.

The transformation of the international system has been a core concern of recent international relations (IR) theory. This research agenda grew out of a gnawing dissatisfaction with mainstream tendencies to ignore the potential for subterranean or epochal shifts in world politics. We seemed to lack the tools to detect, let alone describe or explain, forms of rule that departed from the current model of a system of sovereign states. Of particular concern was the discipline’s inability to recognise and account for the historically peculiar nature of contemporary territoriality.

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