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By H. W. C. Davis
Text in [square brackets] was added especially for this online publication by Ellopos
IX - THE FREE TOWNS
Still, the aims of the medieval burgess are more uniform, from one place to another and from one generation to another, than we might anticipate in ages when information travelled slowly, and when the relations of every town to its lord were settled by a separate treaty. In modern Europe the town is an administrative district of the state, and is organised upon a standard pattern. In medieval Europe the town-charter was frequently a compromise with the caprices and the interests of a petty seignor; and even kings were inclined to deal with the towns which stood upon the royal demesne in a spirit of the frankest opportunism.
Moreover, the inclination of all lords was to meddle with their burgesses no further than seemed necessary to ensure the full and punctual discharge of all services and pecuniary dues. So long as these were guaranteed, the internal affairs of the town might be left for the residents to settle as seemed good to them. But, as to the main conditions of the compact, each of the contracting parties holds clear-cut and unwavering views. The lords are agreed that privileges of trade and tenure may safely be granted if the chief magistrates are nominated by, and accountable to themselves. The townsfolk, on the other hand, assume that promises of free tenure and free trade will be worth nothing unless accompanied by the permission to elect all magistrates and councils.
Cf. Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Ancient Rome * Ancient Greece * The Making of Europe
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