This book addresses a gap in Italian historiography by examining rural rather than city communes. In recent years, historians have increasingly focused on local and regional studies of village communities as a way of understanding medieval European history. This discussion of a group ofvillages around Lucca is the first detailed study of the origin of organized village communities in Italy for over seventy years, showing how the social and political structures of the countryside ran alongside those of the city. Chris Wickham analyses how local politics took recognizable shape asits ruling structures gradually emerged over time. His argument does not end there, and indeed extends beyond Italy, to France and Spain, providing sustained comparisons of rural development and social organization. The result is a rare combination of systematic local analysis and wide synthesis,aimed at illuminating the whole area of social transformation in twelfth-century Europe.