I love international development, but if I could do it all over again I might return to my roots as a political/economic historian. In the meantime, David Stasavage (among others) lives out my fantasy research agenda in a new paper:
…why did the autonomous city eventually die out as a form of state organization in Europe? The conventional explanation is that autonomous cities were economic powerhouses, but they died out because they could not compete militarily against larger states. It is suggested that this was particularly the case after technological change led to high fixed costs in war fighting. A problem with this argument is that autonomous cities long held a financial advantage over larger territorial states when it came to fighting wars. The autonomous cities found it easier to gain access to credit and at lower rates of interest, a feature that undoubtedly helped aid in their survival.9 My findings in this article point to a more simple reason why autonomous cities may have died out; the political institutions that initially fostered growth ultimately led to economic stagnation.