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The economy of northern and central Italy has continues to expand, with the development of large-scale international commerce and banking. Florence, Venice and Genoa have taken the lead. This wealth has helped to fund an increasing number of mercenary armies which fight the inter-city wars. The Black Death caused huge loss of life, but only temporarily disrupted the prosperity and economic power of the north Italian city-states. Milan, Florence (under the domination of the Lorenzo de’ Medici “the Magnificent” and his family) and Venice have expanded their territories to become substantial regional powers, while Venice and Genoa, bitter commercial rivals, continue to dominate the sea-lanes of the Mediterranean. It is the wealth and competitive spirit of these northern Italian city-dwellers that has fuelled the launch of the cultural movement known as the Renaissance.

The Roman States have fallen into near-anarchy as local tyrants have seized power from local officials. In the south, Frederick II has brought the government of the kingdom of Sicily to a peak of centralized administrative efficiency, quite unknown elsewhere in Europe. After him, weakness and instability set in, and the state fell to foreign domination. The Spanish kingdom of Aragon now rules here.


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