communekôm´yo͞on [key], in medieval history, collective institution that developed in continental Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. Because of the importance of the commune in municipal government, the term is also used to denote a town itself to which a charter of liberties was granted by the sovereign or feudal overlord. Although in most cases the development of communes was inextricably connected with that of the cities, there were rural communes, notably in France and England, that were formed to protect the common interests of villagers.
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