Skip to content
BY-NC 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter 2020

Facing the Crisis in Medieval Florence: Climate Variability, Carestie, and Forms of Adaptation in the First Half of the Fourteenth Century

From the book The Crisis of the 14th Century

  • Paolo Nanni


In recent years, medieval climate history has become the subject of interdisciplinary research by scholars and scientists throughout Europe. This research is an opportunity for historians of the Middle Ages to contribute insights gleaned from their work with the written historical record and offer the unique perspective of their own discipline. Moreover, the contribution of Italian historiography can both highlight regional differences compared to the rest of Europe and explain some epistemological aspects of the relationships between environment and history, such as different forms of adaptation in the face of rationing crisis. The case study of Florence in the first half of the fourteenth century focuses on these historical aspects and presents the opportunity for an interesting and relevant case of political-economic argumentation. Although documented natural events between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (excessive rain, cold, flood) confirm the strong climate variability of this era, the famines before the Black Death struck were rationing crises triggered mainly by trade mechanisms. Faced with famine and shortages, the city of Florence managed to curb hunger by adopting rationing policies, creating special magistracies, and using communal purchases to control prices. This study outlines the accounts of these events in the chronicles of Domenico Lenzi and Giovanni Villani before discussing the causes and describing the material remedies that were introduced. These remedies were indicative of a growing civic consciousness, new forms of solidarity, and strengthened political communication.

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
Downloaded on 23.3.2023 from
Scroll Up Arrow