An Introduction To The Republic of Cospaia - The Longest Lasting Anarchist Republic

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I have talked about different forms of anarchism that have lasted for multiple generations, but I have yet to put down an anarchist society with a nightwatchman state and a lack of a monopoly on violence that has existed for longer than a century. For most people, the concept of an anarchist society lasting longer than a century - longer than one hundred years total, or five generations if you go by the definition of the US Census for what a generation is - seem to be impossible. And even for most people who have read about the generational anarchist societies I have been writing about, it would still seem like a task that is possible, but also something that has yet to be seen in practice. However, such an anarchist community was able to exist years ago & this particular anarchist nation was around during a time period when creating a functioning libertarian community would be seen by most as impossible, especially when there are powerful feudal kingdoms and an all-consuming theocracy surrounding most of the known world in a fog of authoritarianism.

Back in the start of the Early Modern era - a time period generally considered to be between the year 1400 and the beginning of the Age of Revolutions around the year 1800 according to the book The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789–1848 by British historian Eric Hobsbawm - people in Europe either lived under the control of feudal lords or lived under the boot heel of a religious theocracy like the Catholic Church. However, something happened back in the year fourteen forty that no one would have expected back in that era: people were able to gain freedom for the Church!

A group of Christians living on a small strip of land wished to be independent of the Papacy and were pretty fierce about their desire for freedom. Back in those days, you would expect the Church t just crush anyone who tried to resist and call it a day. But, either due to an error or empathizing with the protesters, Pope Eugene the Fourth, in a ruling that included the sale of territory to the Republic of Florence, decided that a small strip of land that was near the border of Florence and the Papal territories of the Church would have its independence. From that year, the people living in this region would no longer be subjects of the Church or some feudal rulers - they would be free to start their own nation called the Republic of Cospaia. Florence recognized independence in the year 1484.

Now, when you imagine someone creating a new country back in the 1400s, you would think they would default to creating a new monarchy or producing some new theocracy where everyone needs to worship the leaders 'chosen by God' or suffer some form of torture or some other form of authoritarianism. Most people back then were indoctrinated to associate freedom with chaos and death so you need some authority with a strong monopoly on violence to keep everything in check. However, this time things were very different from what you would expect from a nation established back in 1440.

The Republic of Cospaia was an anarchist nation similar to FEJUVE. It did not have a strong formal hierarchical state with a strong monopoly on violence. The head administration was the Council of Elders and Family Heads which would be summoned for decision-making and judicial duties. This council was a participatory democracy where members of the different families in Cospaia would discuss how to handle business going on within the borders of Cospaia. Unlike in most of Europe where the oldest man was automatically decided to be the head of the family, different families would choose who the "family heads" are and those leaders of their own households would be able to join the council. This council would go to have the equivalent of town meetings at the Church of Annunciation. Above the door of the church was the only written, permanent law of the tiny republic: Perpetua et firma libertas ("Perpetual and secure freedom"). The republic had no taxes, but there was a fee for being on the council. Those who did not pay the fee would still be allowed to be citizens of Cospaia and still attend the meetings, but would not be able to be a part of the Council of Elders and Family Heads.

How did the Council members and people pay for things like the fee for being on the council? Well, first there is the basic economy where different families owned some territory among themselves in order to grow and sell crops or provide some kind of good/service for the rest of the community. The selling of a particular stable crop also allowed the nightwatchman state to help fund public programs while different families have enough of their own property in order to have their own little means of production and businesses. While this is similar to mutualism, I feel like there is a different kind of anarchist economy that I get to go into. For those tired of me talking about mutualism, I can talk about a similar type of anarchist economic system called anarcho-distributism.

Distributism is considered by some to be a form of mutualism by some anarchists like Iain McKay with things like removing private banks in favor of credit unions & mutual banks. However, where property can be owned in mutualism as long as it is occupied & actively being used by individuals, distributism only has property privately owned by cooperatives, member-owned mutual organizations, and small, family-owned businesses. In FEJUVE, as long as you occupy the property or use it to provide goods/services, you can have property even if you are planning on making a sole proprietorship. In distributism, you need to have friends or family members co-own the property & sole proprietorships do not exist as entities. I might talk more about anarcho-distributism in the future, but for now, all you need to know is that this form of anarchist economics allowed different families to have their own family businesses that allow them to do things like paying their council fees & people were able to own some degree of property to themselves as long as they occupied/used said property & own it with other members of their family/friends in a family-owned business/coop.

Cospaia's family businesses and mutual organizations mostly got money for the community as an early center of tobacco production within Italy using 25 hectares of fertile soil to grow it. Cospaia had moments of prosperity specifically because they were able to have a borderline monopoly on tobacco growing & production. During the existence of Cospaia, the Church had a ban on tobacco growing in many Papal States which made this territory one of the few places to easily get tobacco. According to the book  Beyond modernization: the impact of endogenous rural development. by Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, this ban by the state helped this libertarian society survive and thrive throughout the Early Modern Era.

During the start of Cospaia, there were 250 inhabitants and while the population grew, there is no current surviving census I was able to find to show how much growth Cospaia experience or how much the community rose population-wise throughout its existence.

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A person working in cybersecurity and living in the United States who loves to write about topics like U.S. history, technology news, and a bit of philosophy.

Wingate, NC

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