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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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.

You can get your own copy of  C.R. Friedrichs Urban Politics in Early Modern Europe here:
[url]https://www.routledge.com/Urban-Politics-in-Early-Modern-Europe/Friedrichs/p/book/9780415229852 [/url]


Latest Blog Posts

The Trouble with Networks. Managing the Scots' Early-Modern Madeira Trade (Hancock)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

Management of long-distance trade often led to complex networks and with them, unique challenges for the individuals involved. Today’s choice for #RetroConflictsInspirations is a study of Scottish networks in the early-modern Atlantic build around the export of Madeira wine.

In his 2005 article 'The Trouble with Networks. Managing the Scots' Early-Modern Madeira Trade', David J. Hancock turns our attention to a part of network literature that had, until then, been neglected: 'the troubles networks created for members'. Revisiting this critical approach underlines the double-edged sword of trade networks. The Madeira trade networks were solutions to familiar premodern problems of distance, transportation and communication. Here, we find recurring themes from our #microreviews: reputation, trust and reciprocal relationships. Specifically, the focus on network 'memory' and reputation in this study deserves further attention. A trader’s reputation (e.g., his connections or trustworthiness) could be the key to unlocking more opportunities, but failure/mismanagement of his network led to sanctions and exclusion. Network memory could also fail or provide incorrect assessments, leading traders to agreements with partners turned out to be ‘a bad investment’. Maintaining the advantages of networks required careful & continuous management; any failure led to new challenges to overcome. [....]

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Economies of violence (Esmer)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

Today’s microreview is on an article which examines the complex role of violence in premodern conflicts. In a very captivating way, Tolga U. Esmer discusses in ‘Economies of violence, banditry and governance in the Ottoman empire around 1800’ how bandits were not marginals, but in fact quite central to the functioning of the empire in modern-day Balkans.

Their actions  were ‘essential aspects of the Ottoman imperial model for upholding a ‘common good’ and achieving order’. Since they acted both in cooperation with officials and on their own behalf, the officials strove to control the narrative about bandits: they were extra-military forces in times of war, and bandits in peacetime. This echoes a phenomenon we encounter in our sources: namely ‘privateers’ and ‘pirates’, who pose challenges of classification because of the boundaries of their liability, of contemporary terminology with an agenda, and of modern day terms to be used in the analyses. Esmer points out there was an ‘economy of violence’ in the exchanges with the officials, with the local society, and within the groups of bandits. Apart from property or money, less tangible aspects like honour, loyalty, social capital played a fundamental role in the choice to take risks or position themselves in the society. These ‘surpluses of human behaviour’ as Esmer quotes after Georges Bataille, need to be taken into account when discussing state formation, land tenure, taxes or conflict management. Again, this evokes a parallel in our project, namely to the role of trust not only in mercantile exchanges, but also in conflict management.[....]

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Politische Kommunikation in der Hanse (1550-1621) (Schipmann)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

This week’s #retroconflictinspiration and #microreview takes us to a rather understudied field of Hanseatic research: the late 16th and the 17th century. Published in 2004, Johannes Ludwig Schipmann’s PhD thesis ‘Politische Kommunikation in der Hanse (1550-1621)’ anticipated some of the more recent developments in Hanseatic research.

By taking a comparative approach and based on research around the Imperial Diet, Schipmann argued against the often-presupposed uniqueness of the Hanse. To concentrate too narrowly on formal qualities like a common seal and coat of arms can avert our attention from a shared political communication and culture. (See already our microreview on Duncan Hardy’s take on diets.) Even when agreeing that the Hanse is and was difficult to grasp in terms of political and economical institutions, it shared practices of communication with its contemporaries. Thus, Schipmann does not, through the lens of 19th century state-theory, consider the Hanseatic diet as ‘inefficient’ due to its slow decision-making. Rather, he identifies it as just one (albeit important) cogwheel in a long process of consensus-making which – featuring tactics of escalation and de-escalation – allowed participants to reconcile common and individual interest, Hanseatic commonalities and regional particularities. [....]

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