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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From Usages of Merchants to Default Rules (De ruysscher)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

When looking at merchant communities residing abroad (such as ‘our’ Hansards) questions about the relation between local urban rules and trade customs quickly arise. Dave De ruysscher’s article about premodern Antwerp is today’s pick for our #RetroConflictsInspirations.

The attention of @retro_conflicts  moves from cities along the North Sea area to the Burgundian lands. With such a variety of interactions between the Hanse and the cities they trade (and often, fight legal battles) in, urban comparisons play an important part in our research. This makes insight into local legal practices essential. In 'From Usages of Merchants to Default Rules' @d_deruysscher provides such research for Antwerp. As foreign merchants increasingly sought out trade opportunities in Antwerp, they brought with them new or different approaches to merchant customs. In this thread we wonder about the influence of such developments on Antwerp's laws: did the influx of new practices lead to changes in government-made laws and if so, how?  In Antwerp, this influence ties back to the idea of "default rules". Merchant customs were not directly applied by the city, but can be considered as the "default rules" that acted as "the raw materials for jurists forging concrete measures" - the importance of university-trained jurists in Antwerp adds another local layer that should be kept in mind while comparing cities and their interactions with trade rules.

Dave De ruysscher (2012) 'From Usages of Merchants to Default Rules: Practices of Trade, Ius Commune and Urban Law in Early Modern Antwerp'


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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