Modern historical studies of Siena, Perpignan, Pistoia, and Orvieto

Modern historical studies of Siena, Perpignan, Pistoia, and Orvieto all suggest that after a few months political and legal machinery once again functioned, and that at least in some cases city governments tried to assist their populations in coping with the disaster. In Perpignan the persistence of will-making even at the height of the epidemic was impressive; a will written by professionals, with witnesses, was a “fairly sophisticated document, representing a rather high level of social organization” that did not break down in panic.12 When the worst months passed, legal documents reappeared in full flower, and their character reveals a community rebuilding itself: there were again estate settlements, dis- putes among heirs, restorations of dowries, and apprenticeship contracts as new workers were recruited to fill gaps in trades. The finances of the city govern- ment of Siena recovered rapidly, as the governing council successfully raised taxes and imposed forced loans, all of which met the higher demands of the city’s mercenary army. Individuals who had fled the city began returning, and the city government attempted to assist the reconstruction of the rural hinterland of Siena: taxation of hard-hit villages was remitted and rent payments were canceled. A city government that could actually boast of a budget in balance, as Siena could do in 1353, was hardly a demoralized or disorganized community; a balanced government budget in Siena, according to William Bowsky, rarely happened even in prosperous times.13 The government of Orvieto was perhaps less effective than that of Siena, but there too the council resumed its regular meetings and appointed new city employees.

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