Ignoring many commonplaces about medieval justice, often envisioned as an incessant series of horrifying torture and ordeals, the author pieces together the construction of a trial-based public justice system in Italian medieval urban society. The studies collected in the volume, centred on a sizeable amount of unpublished documents drawn from archives, show how in the 13th century trials - inspired by Roman sources of the preceding century - became the standard arrangement for demanding and rendering justice and mediating conflicts among cives and institutions. The author's extended research (concentrated in the cities of Perugia and Bologna) challenges the evolutionary paradigm which interprets the transition from an accusatory system to an inquisitory one as a sign of completed state system; this widely accepted thesis does not consider the magnitude of intermediation practices and the many forms of negotiation documented in this book. The author provides a new historical framework for understanding the medieval justice system, the operation of tribunals, the role of parties to the trial and their strategies, and the relationship between politics and justice.
Massimo Vallerani teaches Medieval Historical Source Exegesis at the University of Turin. His research interests are focused on communal society justice systems.