NWO VIDI project

Managing multi-level conflicts in commercial cities
in northern Europe (c. 1350-1570)

We all want to know how to end conflicts. That is why conflict resolution has been at the centre of academic debates in relation to individual, group and large-scale clashes. Yet conflicts are not only brought to an end, they can escalate or linger on. They are being managed. The current challenge is to reconsider classical paradigms for dealing with conflicts and anchor this change in historical reflection. In this project, ‘conflict managers’ in premodern cities in northern Europe open new doors to understanding how conflicts were dealt with in the past, and lead us to new questions about the present.

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Introducing a blog series on #historyinconflicts: the medieval edition

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

On 25.06.2021, a group of medievalists discussed the question ‘what happens when history is evoked in conflicts’? Specifically: did such discourse take place? – how did it happen? – why did it happen? in medieval cases and sources, ranging from the Scottish Marches to Sardinia, and from lawsuits to references to burial mounds. What functions did such historical discourse have: was it for instance a call for change or a call for preservation in a conflict?... And who used the memory of a sometimes distant past in the heat of a clash? The historical argument in conflicts was not only an interpretation of the past. Various actors within such conflict gave meaning to events and relations in the past, and made use of the historical discourse for specific ends.

It became a very thought-provoking online meeting, which we want to share here. Indeed, the goal of this blog series is to present summaries of the contributions by medievalists, and to continue the discussion with early modernists and modernists. Some highlights by way of introduction.[....]

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History as an argument in conflicts webinar 25.06

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

What happens in a conflict when you use history as a powerful argument to reach your goal?...
On 25th of June, a group of medievalists will discuss captivating examples from their own sources and research. Jackson Armstrong, Flavio Miranda, Justine Firnhaber-Baker, Patrick Lantschner, Hans Jacob Orning, Jenny Benham, jembenham, Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz, Dan Smail, Piotr Górecki.

If you want to join in, DM: spots are limited here! We will be, however, tweeting summaries of the presentations and discussions in the week of 28th of June, and longer posts on our website. And: we invite both #twitterstorians and #conflict scholars to comment.

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Konfliktaustragung im norddeutschen Raum des 14. und 15. Jahrhunderts (Dirks)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

Today’s microreview and #retroconflictsinspiration is Florian Dirks’@florian_d1 ‘Konfliktaustragung im norddeutschen Raum des 14. und 15. Jahrhunderts’ (V&R 2015).
The book focuses on feuds between (lower) nobility and northern German cities (Bremen, Lüneburg, Hildesheim) in the late Middle Ages, and the role diets played in dealing with conflicts (which ties in with our earlier microreview of the work of @HREhistorian). Dirks posits that especially Hanseatic city councils were eager to use diets as a tool in resolving feuds and highlights the role of councillors as mediators and witnesses for other cities. Six case studies are analysed meticulously, showing multiple reasons for feuds and a far more nuanced communication between the nobility-city parties than assumed until now. The negotiations took place in neutral places like hillsides, bridges or in cloisters: a nice illustration for the practice of premodern neutrality as discussed by e.g. @KOschema. For our project, it is of interest that diets were de-escalation tactics, after violence and economic damage occurred, and that there was a discourse of competence of councillors. Also, the book takes issue with #primarysources editions, which might have shaped our views of feuds and diets, following the remarks made by e.g. @angelalinghuang and @UKypta on the #Hanse, as well as a thorough discussion of the concept of feud.

JW-M

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Order within Law, Variety within Custom (Kadens)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

We will start this week by highlighting the concept of the law merchant and the criticisms that can be applied – by selecting Emily Kadens’ article ‘Order within Law, Variety within Custom’ as today’s #RetroConflictsInspirations.

Kadens argues against the idea of self-regulating law merchant (“a coherent, European-wide body of general commercial law, driven by merchants”) and offers a re-examinations of medieval merchant law. Not based on lex mercatoria but iura mercatorum: the laws of merchants. The merchant law that can be derived from source material was a collection of e.g. privileges, public statues & private customs. Both the merchant communities and their practices, and the government’s legislation, or ‘non-customary police power’, were of importance for the development of the medieval merchant law. Kadens suggests that mercantile law filled a gap in the customary/statutory laws of medieval Europe, but it was not entirely merchant driven, nor was it universal. And, relevant for our project: locality needs to be taken into account. Indeed, when looking at Hansards trading abroad, the cities they visited & their governments are a vital component for research into the way merchants approached law abroad. Conflicts often crossed legal borders and could simultaneously involve merchant/urban/royal courts.[....]

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Spielregeln der Politik im Mittelalter (Althoff)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

In today’s #microreview it is time for a modern classic of #medieval historiography. In his 1997 book ‘Spielregeln der Politik im Mittelalter’ – a collection of earlier articles – Gerd Althoff proposed that conflicts between high-medieval nobility followed a catalogue of unwritten rules and employed a tool-box of symbolic communication.

Seemingly spontaneous and emotive acts of humility and mercy were part of a carefully negotiated public communication that should allow to preserve societal order and peace. And although violence was an ever-looming option in these conflicts, it was applied in finely tuned doses and according to a pattern of step-wise escalation, always allowing parties to fall back to negotiation. The step from feuding nobility to Hanseatic cities and merchants is not as far as it may seem and so there are many #retroconflictinspirations to take away for us as well. Take for example the constant process of negotiation and the use of violence, which seldomly was allowed to reach a point where communication between parties broke off or a settlement became impossible. But there is also the role of mediators whose function Althoff has stressed as fundamental for medieval conflict management.[....]

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Urban Politics (Friedrich)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

‘What exactly was urban politics like in early modern Europe?’ That is the question that Christopher Friedrichs sets out to answer in this week’s #retroconflictinspirations, Urban Politics in Early Modern Europe (2000). Friedrichs’ book, although 20 years old now, is still a useful guide to #earlymodern urban politics.

It has three main virtues that keep it relevant. Firstly, the way that it foregrounds concrete matters of what it was like to practice politics in city on a day to day basis. Secondly, it shows how urban politics was distinct compared to other political settings, both at the time and today, and also displays the variation within urban politics, from communal prayer in Cologne, to rioting in La Rochelle, to royal interventions in urban Spain. Thirdly, although it does give a good outline of the forms of political institution found in cities, Friedrichs keeps the book’s focus on politics as a process of decision making, which entailed strategies for reasoning about political issues and managing political conflicts. It concludes by highlighting the secrecy of early modern governments. This strictly enforced secrecy had an important place in conflict management and decision making, allowing unpressured decision making but also enabling councils to evade petition and protest by citizens. [....]

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