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Free City

        Culture | Middle Ages

Free City , a town or city that governs itself and is independent, or largely independent, of the country in which it is located. The distinction between a free city and a city-state is mostly a matter of size and strength; a city-state is generally more powerful and controls more territory. The independent cities of ancient times were called city-states, as were the independent cities of medieval Italy.

Free cities were most common during the Middle Ages, especially in the Holy Roman Empire. Beginning in the 13th century, Lübeck, Hamburg, Bremen, and Cologne, among others, were established as free cities in the Holy Roman Empire. At the time many of the free cities of North Germany united to form the Hanseatic League. Two cities, the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen and the Free Hanseatic City of Hamburg (as they are officially called), retained much of their autonomy after German unification in 1871 and are now states of Germany.

Danzig (Gdańsk) was a free city for 20 years between the World Wars.

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