“Let us visualize for a moment all those powerful cities in Italy, Germany, the Low Countries and England, so many inter-linked metropolises, forming between them what has been described as
the ‘economic backbone of Europe’, the key zone in a pre-capitalist and capitalist Europe, a network of inter-connected routes. If Italy and Germany both took such a long time to become unified
politically as nations, it was precisely because of this profusion of cities, early-flowermg, independent, extremely rich and taking good care to preserve their liberty. France stood somewhat aside
from this European development: for the isthmus running through France derived its principal energy not from the towns of Languedoc nor from Marseille, nor from the ports of Provence, but rather from the good will and self-interest of the Italian cities, the obligatory starting point for any effective economic cicuit at time.”
Fernand Braudel, Identity of France, Volume 1 History and Environment, 1986, Harper & Row.