Color photograph of the head and shoulders of a light skinned woman with long brown hair smiling at the camera; she is in an outdoor location, at a brick ledge overlooking a hillside with buildings

Carolyn J. Quijano

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Rome Prize
September 5, 2022–July 14, 2023
PhD Candidate, Department of History, Columbia University
Project title
Foreign Magistracies and Accountability in the Medieval Italian Communes, c. 1200–1400
Project description

In the hyper-partisan political environment of communal Italy (c. 1200–1400), the councils of the northern communes fought to create stable governments. My work uncovers how the intersection between accountability and necessity led to governmental change, marked by the transformation of key roles in communal and signorial regimes. Drawing on city statutes, legal and political treatises, and records of audits, I explore the accountability structures used to ensure responsible governance. However, such structures fell short during existential crises, and were undermined by partisan interests. Responding to this failure, communal governments employed a flexible interpretation of reform that created incompatible hierarchies of law, which future legislators had to navigate. As issues of corruption increasingly influence national discourses in modern societies, a look to the Italian communes reveals new ways to conceptualize political accountability.