What are the reasons for the growth of Florence?
Unlike the maritime cities, the growth of Florence was initially hindered by its inland isolation and lack of access to the major land routes that ran north. A disadvantage of the city was a shortage of decent local supply but an increase of entrepreneurial merchant companies traveling as far as Flanders and England to source raw materials helped revitalize the industry. The gradual revival of Mediterranean trade was crucial to the expansion of Florence and many other Italian city-states. The cloth was in high demand from the eleventh century, and Florence was at the epicenter of its production. To cover the time-consuming purchase and selling of raw materials, the Florentines established a banking network and the Florin, first minted in 1252, became the most stable and widespread currency of the continent. In the fourteenth century, Florentine family firms like the Peruzzi and the Bardi were amongst Europe’s wealthiest and Florence benefited greatly from the major trade route north from Rome now passing through the city. Social development in Florence was partly influenced by politics. The city was granted independence in 1115 by Countess Matilda of Tuscia who enabled the creation of a commercial government. One-hundred men were chosen to rule the city. The communes early days were bedeviled by rivalries between the Papacy and Emperors, while the surrounding city-states of Siena, Lucca, and Pisa resisted its territorial expansion. Despite their efforts, however, Florence did manage to extend its territory, absorbing municipalities of the states above in the process. Many people of modest background as well as nobility, migrated to Florence, attracted by the economic opportunities the city had to offer. A growing middle-class and necessity for guilds drew in thousands of citizens. The demand for labor was so strong that the city’s population tripled to an estimated 120,000 in the thirteenth century. During that period, Florence became hegemonized rival factions know as the Ghibellines and Guelphs. The Ghibellines, who were of a largely noble background, were opposed to the Papacy and supported the Holy Roman Empire whereas, the Guelphs came from merchant classes and supported the Pope. The difference between these factions became indistinct and the Guelphs were eventually victorious then soon fragmented into Black and White factions which reflected family rivalries.