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.

Contesting the City (Liddy)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

Last week, several history-students at the @UvA_Humanities  valiantly faced their oral B.A. literature exams. Among the books discussed was also one of our #RetroConflictsInspirations: Christian D. Liddy’s ‘Contesting the City’. In vivid discussions, many students summarized the main argument of the book along the following lines: English citizenship was an inherently contested concept.

If citizens were equal by oath and constitution how could some of them legitimize their rule over the rest? Tracking the voices and actions of citizens, councils, and mayors in the public sphere – in space, time, and communication – Liddy shows that we should not consider conflict as a mere disturbance to a generally accepted top-down oligarchic rule. Instead, conflicts were common to the anything but static urban political thought and practice. Here we can tie his thoughts to our research: did Hanseatic burghers and merchants consider conflicts in and around their cities unanimously as disturbances to economic, political, and social order? Or should we maybe allow medieval burghers and merchants more differentiated views of their world?

[url=/Or should we maybe allow medieval burghers and merchants more differentiated views of their world?   https://oxford.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.1093/oso/9780198705208.001.0001/oso-9780198705208 (As a bonus, the book is also an immense pleasure to read.)]https://oxford.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.1093/oso/9780198705208.001.0001/oso-9780198705208 [/url](As a bonus, the book is also an immense pleasure to read.)


Latest Blog Posts

Punctuated Negotiations (Druckman & Olekalns)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

Historians of conflicts study change. Today’s #microreview focuses on acute moments of change, namely turning points, as viewed by the social sciences. In negotiations, turning points happen when a conflict issue is being reframed, according to Daniel Druckman and Mara Olekalns (2013). One of the ways to reach it is a skilled use of interruptions and timeouts because they create momentum and make salient pieces of information stand out. Another one is creating so-called anchoring events which defy expectations, e.g. through surprise. This approach can be useful when evaluating the course of #diplomatictalks, for instance in both external and internal Hanseatic conflicts: we do repeatedly see such ‘punctuated negotiations’. Again, the importance of negotiators/#conflictmanagers  comes to the fore: they need(ed) to be resilient, adaptable and ‘open to the present moment’. And be willing to take risks, every now and then. Timeless skills.

Druckman, Daniel, and Mara Olekalns. “Punctuated Negotiations: Transitions, Interruptions, and Turning Points.”, in Handbook of Research on Negotiation, ed. by Mara Olekalns and Wendi L. Adair  (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2013).[....]

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The Culture of Reconciliation (Muldrew)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

The themes of this week’s #RetroConflictsInspirations are informal dispute settlement, community and trust, courtesy of ‘The Culture of Reconciliation’ by Craig Muldrew. Connecting economic growth with the great increase of the numbers of disputes in early modern England, Muldrew makes a strong case for the prevalence of “communities based on extensive networks of informal personal trust”, and informal means of conflict resolution. Economic disputes, related to e.g. contracts and credit, became more complex as trade expanded, and increasingly, the authority of law was required in dispute resolution. The growth of legal suits strengthened the occurrence/importance of laws of contract & debts. But this did not mean that the role of informal means of dispute settlement was replaced. To paraphrase, Muldrew aptly states that examining conflict only in terms of the law is insufficient, and that attention should also be paid to the practices, conceptions, and emotions of disputing individuals (p.918). Expanding research to the role of social institutions (hierarchy, kin networks, guilds) has indeed been prevalent in current research to conflicts – and perceptions of conflicts, and the reactions to them by individual actors, are an invaluable part of our project’s research. Moving from conflict resolution to #conflictmanagement makes it further possible to analyze the process of the increasingly complex mercantile disputes, and all the forms of (in)formal ways individuals and communities sought means of arbitration and the resolution.

C. Muldrew, 'The Culture of Reconciliation: Community and the Settlement of Economic Disputes in Early Modern England', The Historical Journal, Vol. 39, No. 4 (Dec., 1996), pp. 915-942

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Dark Side of Knowledge (Zwierlein)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

The fact that ‘misunderstanding’ is often used as a synonym for conflict says a lot about where we think conflicts come from. Our past #microreviews have highlighted how expertise could be key in some conflicts, but the unknown can be just as important.

The 2016 volume The Dark Side of Knowledge, edited by Cornell Zwierlein, is certainly one of our #retroconflictinspirations in this area. It covers 400 years of the history of ignorance, with contributions from past review subject Daniel Smail, as well as Zwierlein himself. The interdisciplinary use of the sociology of knowledge (and ignorance) is a consistent theme in the book. Zwierlein and other contributors frame ignorance not as a void but rather as part a system of knowledge and related non-knowledge, with each influencing the other.It is informed by historical perspectives too, with its title drawn from Locke’s evocation of the reciprocity between knowledge and ignorance, and  notes to Pascal’s observation that growth in the ‘sphere’ of knowledge increases the amount of ignorance touched by its edges. Over its seventeen chapters the book develops a language for discussing past ignorance which combines sociological and historical insights to describe more precisely the range of ignorance or non-knowledge at play in the pre-modern world and its effects. Although the legal and political appearances of non-knowledge are particularly informative for our conflict project, one of the book’s strengths is its ability to show how ubiquitous the challenges of ignorance were in history: from art to trade to travel to education. The Dark Side of Knowledge: Histories of Ignorance 1400 -1800 is available at https://brill.com/view/title/33668?language=en , or you can read the introduction at
https://www.academia.edu/26608966/Book_The_Dark_Side_of_Knowledge_Histories_of_Ignorance. [....]

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