From Shire to Barony in Scotland: The Case of Eastern
Modern historiography on the interrelationship between the Normans and the cities of southern Italy has long interpreted it in negative and antagonistic terms. The Normans and the urban communities established a pragmatic modus vivendi based on a mutually acknowledged equality of status. The Normans could harness shock-and-awe military tactics, but found it very difficult to enter South Italian cities by force. The ensuing political disruption of the Norman 'conquest' across the eleventh century challenged southern Italy's urban communities, which were variously made up of Lombards and mostly in Calabria and southern Apulia Greek Christians. Particularly in Apulia, there were often intermediate stages in the Norman take-over of cities, at which times urban communities retained their autonomy in return for tribute payments. The nature of the Norman take-over reinforced the familiarity of urban elites with self-government. Thus, in the eleventh century the Normans effected regime-change and yet oversaw a transition which was overwhelmingly characterised by urban continuity.