Barcelona and its Rulers, 1096–1291

Barcelona and its Rulers, 1096–1291

Based on extensive archival research, this volume examines the early growth of Barcelona in order to understand the causes of the European economic take-off. The city did not at first grow because of overseas trade but because of market-oriented agriculture and tribute from Islamic Spain. Only after a difficult adjustment did the city develop the commercial foundations that would later ensure its prosperity. Barcelona's patriciate rose to prominence during the second stage of growth, also a period dominated by a struggle for power in Catalonia. Here, the family structure of the patriciate receives close examination, and in general the volume challenges many traditional assumptions about the nature of Mediterranean towns.


"This is a lengthy, searching, and ultimately brilliant volume on the urban economy and rise of patrician families in Barcelona during the high Middle Ages....a sophisticated, original, and major contribution to Iberian social history. It promises to become a classic in the historiography of medieval Barcelona and to take its place alongside the works of Carme Batlle, Claude Carrère, and Jaume Vicens Vives, which are devoted to later periods of the city's history....Bensch's volume is beautifully written, well documented, and profound..." Speculum-A Journal of Medieval Studies

"...the first book in English to consider the history of medieval Barcelona and the emergence of its patriciate....The book is also an important work of comparative history, placing Barcelona's evolution against the dominant model of northern Italian towns. Bensch is able to show that Barcelona did not conform to this model, but beyond that, he calls into question the unexamined assumptions about Mediterranean urban development based on the Italian important contribution to the history of Catalonia and of Mediterranean trade....Bensch has effectively demonstrated the origins of Barcelona's power and character while showing us a more complex Mediterranean world." Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

"'Barcelona and its Rulers' is a well-written, thoroughly researched, crucial addition to both medieval urban and social history. Stephen Bensch not only enriches our understanding of a great city and its place within a powerful mediterranean kingdom, but also explores hypotheses concerning 'rebirth' and evolution of cities in the Middle Ages, drawing on Catalaln, Spanish, German, French, Italian, and English scholarship. Bensch's study is singularly important for any scholar of medieval Spain because it is the first systematic study of Barcelona during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries." Rebecca Winer, Comitatus

"Barcelona and Its Rulers, 1096-1291 fills a serious gap in the history of this most important Mediterranean metropolis....Dozens of Catalan experts, it is true, are exploring the archives of the crown of Aragon -- as well as those of the Cathedral of Barcelona....Stephen Bensch has undertaken to integrate all of this published work and to add to it new data he has gleaned himself from the archives -- a formidable challenge, indeed, and one from which Bensch emerges victorious. Of equal significance is the fact that Bensch's study is now one of the most important monographs on medieval urban life as he has taken into account not only the immense body of studies by Italian and French scholars, but has, at times, cast his net to include the works of German and English scholars as well." Joseph Shatzmiller, International History Review

"Bensch's study of the expansion of Barcelona's trade through the Mediterranean completes a study that explores in a new and original way the internal history of a major European city." American Historical Review


Medieval Academy of America's 1999 John Nicholas Brown Prize
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Books for 1995