The Color Purple.

by Gerry Enck, Docent. 2004

Florence, in the fifteenth century, was a city-state ruling not only Florence but (with interruptions) Prato, Pistoia, Pisa, Volterra, Cortona, Arezzo, and their agricultural hinterland. The peasants were not serfs but partly small proprietors, mostly tenant farmers, who lived in houses of crude cemented stone much as today, and chose their own village officials govern them in local affairs.Machiavelli did not disdain to chat and play with these hardy knights of the field, the orchard, or the vine. But the magistrates of thc cities regulated sales, and, to appease a troublesome proletariat, kept food prices too low for peasant happiness; so the ancient strife of country and city added its somber obbligato to the songs of hate that rose from embattled classes within the city walls.

According to Villani the city of Florence proper had in 1343 a population of some 91,500 souls; we have no equally reliable estimate for later Renaissance years, but we may presume that the population grew as commerce expanded and industry thrived. About a fourth of the city dwellers were industrial workers; the textile lines alone, in the thirteenth century, employed 30,000 men and women in two hundred factories.

In 1300 Federigo Oricellarii earned his surname by brining from the East the secret of extracting from lichens a violet pigment (orchella, archil). This technique revolutionized the dye industry, and made some woolen manufacturers into what today would be millionaires. In textiles Florence had already reached by 1300 the capitalistic stage of large investment, central provision of materials and machinery, systematic division of labor, and
control of production by the suppliers of capital. In 1407 a woolen garment passed through thirty processes, each performed by a worker specializing in that operation.

To sell its products Florence encouraged its merchants to maintain trade with all ports of the Mediterranean, and along the Atlantic as far as Bruges. Consuls were stationed in Italy, the Baleares, Flanders, Egypt, Cyprus, Constantinople, Persia, India, and China to protect and promote Florentine trade. Pisa was conquered as an indispensable outlet of Florentine goods to the sea, and Genoese merchant vessels were hired carry them. Foreign products competitive with Florentine manufactures were excluded from the markets of Florence through protective tariffs set by a government of merchants and financiers.