We are publishing 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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Tage (Courts, Councils and Diets) (Hardy)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

Another Monday, another #RetroConflictsInspirations! Diets of Hanseatic cities have been a central – and highly debated – object of research but for a long time, historians have treated them as a rather isolated and Hanse-specific phenomenon. However, @Duncan Hardy’s concise intervention on political Tage in the Holy Roman Empire suggests a more comparative approach: diets – in the form of arbitrational courts, associative meetings, or representative assemblies – were the primary form of political interaction in the medieval Empire, encompassing political units and actors from small town to the Emperor.

Such a comparative approach may not only help us to place the Hanse stronger within a medieval context but also to cast light on the diets’ role in conflict management. Hanseatic diets combined elements of arbitration, association, and representation, each aimed at handling diplomatic as well as legal conflicts, not only in the official meetings but also in ‘unofficial’ gatherings in hostels and inns. To give one prominent example for comparison: the practice of delaying contentious matters, often perceived by historians as a peculiar ‘hinderance’ to Hanseatic politics, can also be found in the meetings between Swiss cities and appear to have helped preventing escalation.


An important first step to such a comparative approach has already been made in a summer-school organized by the @FGHO, of which results have been published in the last issue of the Hansische Geschichtsblätter.


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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.


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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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