- Florentine term for unskilled wool-carders employed in the woollen industry, one of the lowest-ranking social and economic groups. Their violent rebellion in 1378 was a memorable incident in the troubled political and economic history of 14th-century Florence. After the failure of the attempt by a group of wealthy merchants to put a military dictator into power in 1343, the guilds representing the middling elements of the population had compelled the guilds of rich businessmen to grant them an increased share in the city's government. Encouraged by this development, the Ciompi, who were totally excluded from a political voice and were suffering from low wages and unemployment, sought a voice of their own in government. When they were turned down in 1378, the Ciompi rebelled and forced the regime directed by the 21 established guilds to grant them the right to organize two new guilds and thus to gain some voice, though not a very powerful one, in the political system. The members of the 14 lesser guilds, however, resented the new privileges of this propertyless group and tried to limit their gains. In 1382, since tension between the Ciompi and the middling classes was paralyzing local government and threatening further violence, rich conspirators from the seven greater guilds staged a coup d'état, dissolved the two new guilds of the Ciompi, and then used their military force to restore order. Within a few years, the wealthy guilds had managed to carry through a "reform" of the political system that reduced the representation of the lesser guilds on the ruling executive council and restored the dominance of the rich over the political system.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.