Saturday, July 24, 2021


Long Live the People and the Crafts!

Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011), pp. 114-115:
Some of the most skilled of these [cloth workers] were organized in powerful guilds that looked out for their interests, but other workmen labored for a pittance. In 1378, two years before Poggio's birth, the seething resentment of these miserable day laborers, the populo minuto, had boiled over into a full-scale bloody revolt. Gangs of artisans ran through the streets, crying, "Long live the people and the crafts!" and the uprising briefly toppled the ruling families and installed a democratic government. But the old order was quickly restored, and with it a regime determined to maintain the power of the guilds and the leading families.

After the defeat of the Ciompi, as the working-class revolutionaries were called, the resurgent oligarchs held on to power tenaciously for more than forty years, shaping Poggio's whole knowledge and experience of the city where he determined to make his fortune.
In his endnotes Greenblatt provides no sources for this passage. His populo minuto seems to be a misprint for popolo minuto. In Italian the cry was apparently "Viva il popolo et l'arti!" See Il controtumulto de' Ciompi: Lettera del secolo XIV (Florence: Tipografia all'Insigna di S. Antonio, 1869), p. 10. Other sources record a similar cry — Viva il popolo minuto, i.e., Long live the little people, which would be a good slogan for a modern populist movement.


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