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.

Search in microreviews and other website content: https://premodernconflictmanagement.org/search

Anger's Past (Rosenwein)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

Considering that it is time for the year’s final #microreview, it seems appropriate to become emotional. However, since this project is about conflict, the chosen emotion is anger. In 1998, Barbara H. Rosenwein, edited a collection of articles under the title ‘Anger’s Past – The Social Uses of an Emotion in the Middle Ages.’

Instead of discussing the thematically broad individual contributions, we draw our #RetroConflictsInspirations from the varied, sometimes disagreeing interpretations of anger they provide. Emotions were and are an integral part of conflict but pose a particular challenge to historians: how are we to interpret anger when we encounter it in our sources? The contributions to ‘Anger’s Past’ provide us with several options, ranging from earnest emotions to anger as a carefully chosen ‘signaling tool’ in dispute. Taken together, however, the articles remind us to not construct a strict dichotomy between emotion and rationality. A merchant could be truly embittered by a cheating trading-partners and simultaneously instrumentalize this sentiment at court. A king’s angry outburst at a diplomatic meeting could be an earnest emotion while at the same time serve political functions.[....]

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Political Participation and Economic Development (Wahl)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

We’re mostly into the qualitative side of #conflict here at retroconflicts, but a little quantification can be useful to grasp the scale and consequences of historical urban conflict. That’s why today’s #retroconflictinspiration #microreview is about the work of Fabian Wahl.

Wahl’s 2019 article ‘Political Participation and Economic Development’ set out to answer a simple but important #econhist question: which urban political institutions contribute to economic growth. To do so, Wahl investigated 3 ‘participative’ institutions across 282 cities. His three institutions are 1) guild representation in the council 2) citizen representation alongside the council (e.g greater- or outer-councils) and 3) the selection of councilors by election, even if only with a very limited franchise. In line with Sheilagh Ogilvie’s research, Wahl finds no evidence for guild government strengthening economic growth, and in the medieval period it may even have been harmful. Representatives outside the council likewise had no demonstrable effect on growth.
As these two institutions did not make economic contributions, Wahl argues, they must have arisen for other purposes. The most likely explanation, he suggests, is the management of conflict between different social groups involved in urban politics, as proposed by Acemoglu.[....]

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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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Negotiated Reformation (Close)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

In the 1540s the city of Augsburg was in negotiation with two smaller cities over their religious policy, Donauwörth and Kaufbeuren. In Kaufbeuren the negotiations rolled along uneventfully, in Donauwörth they escalated to invasion by Augsburg. That is the scene of inter-urban conflict which begins Christopher Close’s ‘The Negotiated Reformation’ (2009), and a great #retroconflictinspiration to kick off this year’s #microreview series.

The book explores how communication within and between cities contributed the unfolding of the Reformation in the urbanized region of eastern Swabia. It challenges both top-down and bottom up views of Reformation arguing instead that it was communication between cities which ensured the Reformation’s spread and accounted for its local variations. In East Swabia this meant cities taking on differentiated roles in a network of information exchange. This network, centred on Augsburg, allowed cities to debate the reformation as it emerged and shape religious practice through conflict and collaboration. Some cities like Augsburg sought to advocate their Reformation as model of others, while other cities sought influence through exporting church personnel (Memmingen), contact with reformers further afield (Donauwörth), or cultivating strong local traditions and preferences (Kaufbeuren). By reconstructing this communication network’s function in regional politics, and the differentiated roles of East Swabian cities within it, Close’s book puts interurban conflict management at the centre of the Reformation, and prompts further consideration of its wider role in politics. [....]

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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.

JW-M

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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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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. [....]

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