We are publishing bi-weekly microreviews on Twitter: short discussions of monographs, edited volumes and articles which have inspired us (#RetroConflictsInspirations). Diplomatic, social, economic, legal history on the one hand, and conflict resolution & management theory on the other.

History meets the social sciences.

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Between sea and city: portable communities in late medieval London and Bruges (Spindler)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

In our project, we follow the Hanse from their cities of origin to their communities abroad. The latter aspect will be today’s #RetroConflictsInspirations: we will discuss the Hanse in Bruges through the framework of Erik Spindler’s approach to ‘portable communities’.

He directs our attention in “Between sea and city” to mobile communities in port towns, incl. social groups within the Hanse that remained abroad for a short-term i.e.: “[communities] made up of people whose social and professional lives were clearly oriented towards the sea". ‘Portable communities’, in this sense, lacked a strong geographical component, the community they belonged to was more important than the town they traded in/travelled through. The key feature: the ability of their members to carry with them their membership of the community. The chapter pays close attention to aspects of mutual support; perception by outsiders; and sharing information in these communities – combining these in its concluding case study of the 1402 execution of Hanseatic captain Tidekin van der Heyde in Sluis, an event followed by a symbolic dispute started by the Hanse, after belatedly receiving the news, leading to his posthumous rehabilitation/reburial & public acts of remembrance by two Hanseatic social groups: the Kontor aldermen and 'other Germans, both captains and others’. The chapter combines a Hanse/Flanders conflict (with discussions re: privileges' protection), the often changing 'portable communities' travelling along medieval trade routes and the rhetoric of shared identity in Bruges, expanding beyond merchants supporting merchants.
Spindler, E., ‘Between sea and city: portable communities in late medieval London and Bruges’, in: Davies, M., and A.J. Galloway, London and beyond: Essays in honour of Derek Keene (London 2012).


Latest Blog Posts

Diplomatische Strategien der Reichsstadt Augsburg (Timpener)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

The majority of conflicts our different sub-projects are concerned with went beyond the formal boundaries of a single city. Often, such altercations required the town council to engage with other municipal governments, regional nobility, and even royal courts. Which is why this week’s #microreview turns towards the topic of #medieval urban diplomacy in the form of Evelien Timpener’s study of late medieval Augsburg’s foreign relations.

Focusing on the council’s conflicts with regional nobility and clergy in the 15th century, Timpener argues, that the main task of urban diplomacy lay in finding allies to support the city’s interests, not in negotiating quick conflict resolutions. While Augsburg’s council situationally cooperated with the nobility, it was the exchange with other cities and the kings of the Holy Roman Empire which constituted the main pillar of the city’s foreign relations. To this end, the council’s diplomats – magistrates, jurists, and messengers – utilized a broad and flexible combination of letters and oral communication. While Timpener focuses on the city’s interaction with regional nobility and clergy, her findings can also be applied to the ‘international’ scope of Hanseatic cities. Although the contact with foreign courts has been a central topic of Hanseatic historiography, only few historians have paid attention to the how and who of the cities’ diplomacy. [....]

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Luther, Conflict, and Christendom (Ocker)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

A new #microreview for you today, this time a monograph on pre-modern conflict management, which shares our project’s roots in Georg Simmel’s understanding of conflict as a process not to be resolved but managed and guided: Christopher Ocker’s Luther, Conflict and Christendom.

Ocker is centrally interested in how an individual affects history, calling the book an anti-biogrpahy, not looking at Luther’s personal life but instead at how others interacted with his ideas and actions. Luther being Luther, that usually means looking at conflicts. He analyses conflict at the political and intellectual levels, as well as at the level of everyday life for common people, characterizing the Reformation as “conflict with relative, not absolute, parameters, defined differently for different people at different times.” This offers new insights into familiar aspects of the Reformation. Considering reform in German cities, Ocker suggests the process was not only a new axis for conflict or extension of old conflicts, but a new set of strategies by which conflict could be explored and managed. Turning to a lesser studied area, he examines how conflicts Luther identified between Protestant morality and the challenges and temptations of life came to the New World with protestant travelers who reinterpreted these conflicts to suit new communities and environments. Here, he highlights the advantages of a conflict management approach to studying two key sixteenth-century developments: the Reformation and transatlantic exchange. By centering the process rather than the subject of conflict, he reveals continuities missed by other methods. The focus on conflict also allows for a perspective neither top-down nor bottom-up but which shows relationships at different scales interacting as conflict moves from one man's intellectual life, to relations in communities like towns or abbeys, to the geopolitcal theatre. [....]

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