In medieval scholarship, social mobility is a theme which has only rarely been the object of a specific scientific reflection, in Italy, as in the other European countries (with the partial exception of the studies on medieval England). This research project aims at investigating social mobility in late medieval Italy through the analysis of both written and material sources. The research will mainly focus on central and northern Italy, with regional in-depth analyses investigating some crucial issues (Rome and the papal curia as channel for social mobility; Tuscany as a laboratory for the social renewal related to the economy and, more specifically, to brokering activities; Lombardy to investigate the role of political and institutional factors in social mobility).
Medieval social mobility has only rarely been considered as a specific theme (a first move forward being La mobilità sociale nel medioevo, S. Carocci ed., Roma, ÉFR, 2010). Therefore, one of the goals of the project has a general nature: while concretely developing extensive and specific research, it aims in fact to engage in examining the methodological and theoretical issues related to social mobility as a theme crucial to the full understanding of medieval societies, still neglected as a whole even at European level.
We can identify five starting hypotheses , which deserve closer consideration in order to verify their validity or to substitute them with other, more suitable, interpretations.
- (a) The identification of the decades from the end of the 13th to the beginning of the 14th cent. as the key-moment of an inversion of relevance between socio-economic and political-institutional dynamics in determining the ways and features of social mobility.
- (b) The link between this change and a stiffening of the dynamics of mobility.
- (c) More broadly, the existence of a structural medieval tendency towards a descending mobility.
- (d) The emergence at the end of the Middle Ages of a complex society characterised on the one hand by the development of phenomena of class closure, and on the other hand by various processes of further separation and differentiation of roles and social functions.
- (e) The identification of phases in which experiences of social mobility and processes of spatial mobility taking place at the supra-local and supra-regional level were connecting and interacting.
The interrelated research fields will be:
- 1) The clarification of the links between social mobility and long-term economic change from the 12th to the 15th cent;
- 2) the reconstruction of the relationships between social mobility and institutional transformations;
- 3) the exploration of specific channels of social mobility;
- 4) finally, we will suggest a complex picture of the social mobility in Late medieval Italy as a process in which economic and politico-institutional factors did not operate separately, but interacted in determining the movement of individuals, families and groups along the social hierarchy.
In order to do so, taking into account the fundamental role of social representations, ideological material, and political idioms proves crucial.