Medieval cities kept old traditions, opinions, and ideas from their birth but times were changing, population was increasing and expansion of trade was taking place. Yet people of authority did not see the value of this change and were stubborn to fix the ways they went about things to fit this new era. Authorities defended their old traditions not so much for their own best interests but rather they did not want the way things were run to be changed in fear that society as a whole would be destructed. Nevertheless the old ideas and ways did not suit the middle class people. These unsuitable conditions soon became unavoidable and the middle class people stood up and voiced their opinions.
To start off there was an big difference of life style of the population either you were in the so called upper class of vassals (landowners) or of the middle class of surfs (merchants or artisans) whom served for the vassals. These landowners made their own laws, tolls and what not for the land that they owned. The surfs were owned by the vassals and stayed with the owner or went to another owner when the land was sold. The land owners depended upon their surfs for trading of goods and services where as the surfs depended upon protection from the vassals. However, surfs were merchants and artisans who needed to travel and trade their services to other surfs, the tolls and laws created by each vassal restricted the merchants and artisans greatly.
Now the middle class was not trying to overthrow their rulers, they accepted the way of these old cities. They did not aim to get rid of it entirely they and they accepted the privileges and authority of princes, clergy and nobility. All the middle class wanted was acknowledgement from the government strictly limited to their own needs, asking for a place compatible with the lives they led.
The old cities consisted of many small cities of merchants surrounding a central city. Merchants had to pay ground rents, tolls for protection by knights, and tolls on merchandise brought on the land. There were different courts with different rules that surfs had to follow one being church related and the other an overall court ruled by the king or the castle owner, not to mention rules set by each vassal.
What merchants wanted was personal liberty or freedom to be able to come and go freely for trade purpose yet still be under protection of the feudal lord. For merchants and artisans needed to be able to travel from city to city to get different goods for trading and their survival. This would lead to the need for the creation of a special court of justice, which would allow the citizen of a town to avoid the variety of authority he would face in travel, which he was responsible to abide by. This greatly unconvinced him and hurt his social or economic activity. Next came the development of a penal code to guarantee security, having a less extensive degree of political independence and local self-government but yet more widespread common laws for merchants and artisans.
Since none of the authorities took action and the population was so diverse it was necessary for some people to take action and represent the mass. Merchants stepped up and formed gilds, which were groups of merchants who initiated meetings to bring about changes and give them independence. The result little by little was the middle class beginning to stand out as a district and privileged group. Finally they acquired a status of freedom where difference and wealth had no baring all citizens were equal. Freedom of the old used to be held only by the privileged class. All you had to do was live on the city soil for one year and all limitations were abolished between surf and lord. Citizen and freeman became a term used interchangeably. This freedom of persons came with the freedom of land and no land could remain idle. Building of houses rapidly grew and the owner of the house paid a mortgage but in time would own his own land. There were no tolls and land taxes and they no longer had to stay on the land.
This new found freedom called for a universal system of laws, there was now a counsel where the president of the court system was selected with agreement by the middle class to avoid unjust rule. Townsman could now only be tried by their own magistrates rather than foreign magistrates where they gone to do trade with in there jurisdictions. The council carried on routine administration regulating equipment, school, military, town problems and taxes were now paid according to your economic status.
In conclusion Middle Age cities were commercial and industrial communities which thrived on the protection of set and enjoyable laws. They were a place where people were proud to live in and had much pride in their city.