The emergence of the city caused a shift from early feudal period to the period of developed feudalism. Characteristic of the latter is the appearance and flourishing of cities as centers of trade and crafts. XI century, the time when in Western Europe the cities are proved, is chronological boundary between the Early Middle Ages (V-XI centuries) to the full development of feudalism (XI-XV century).
As a result of growth of productive forces to the X-XI century in Europe appear all the necessary conditions for the separation of handicrafts from agriculture. The growth of productive forces led to the emergence of medieval cities. The escape of peasants from the villages led directly to the formation of medieval cities - centers of commerce and crafts.
Bourgeois scientists are trying to give answer to the question on the causes of establishing medieval cities. They have created many theories in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Bourgeois theories deal mainly with clarifying the question of what form of settlement has occurred medieval town and how the institutions of this form are completed prior to institution of the medieval city. Romanistic theory (Savin, Thierry, Guizot, Renoir) associate the late medieval city with the late Roman town. According to the "theory of the manor" (Eichhorn, Nich) the city developed from a feudal manor. "Markov theory" (Mauer, Belov) aims to bring urban institutions from failure of the rural municipality brand. Representatives of other theory believed that the fortress is mainly grain, which created the city. Some of bourgeois theories combine several views. Bourgeois science has not proved able to rise to the scientific explanation for the origin of cities.
The medieval city as a center of commodity production and exchange in the feudal society, its social character was a feudal town, organic and integral part of the feudal economy.
In Western Europe, medieval cities as centers of crafts and trade appear soon in Italy (Venice, Genoa, Pisa, Naples, Amalfi) and in southern France (Marseille, Narbonne, Arles, Montpellier, Toulouse and others). One of the factors that contribute to early emergence and development of the Italian and southern french cities have commercial relations with Byzantium and the developed countries of the East.
In X-XI century cities emerge in northern France and the Netherlands and England, in southwestern Germany, along Rhine and Danube. Particularly dense network of cities from XI century onwards, covering the county of Flanders - Bruges, Ypres, Ghent, Lille, Douai, Arras.
The main population of the cities are craftsmen. Villagers who fled their masters and went to town, gradually released from personal addiction to feudal lords. They form a municipality.
The medieval cities differ very much from modern cities by their appearance. They are usually surrounded by high stone walls, towers and massive doors, but also with deep trenches for protection from attacks. Residents of the city - craftsmen and merchants - perform guard service and represent urban military volunteers. The walls that surround the medieval city, over time become narrow and couldn't fit all city buildings. Around the walls gradually emerge urban neighborhoods populated primarily by craftsmen.
The dimensions of the Western European cities were too small. Usually, their population numbers from 1000 up to 3-5 thousand people. Even in XIV-XV century, the cities with 20-30 thousand inhabitants were considered large. Only a few very large cities have a population of more than 80-100 thousand (Paris, Milan, Venice, Florence, Cordoba, Seville).
Outside the city walls, and sometimes inside there were fields, pastures, gardens. The cattle often herd throughout the city. The streets were almost anywhere without pavement.
In the cities due to their anti sanitary condition often outbreak epidemic and devastating fires. The city walls were border allowing the city to grow extensively, so the streets were extremely narrow. There was no street lighting. The central location in town was usually the market square.