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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Trading Conflict (Christ)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

Today’s #microreview is on ‘Trading Conflict. Venetian Merchants and Mamluk Officials in Late Medieval Alexandria’ by Georg Christ. The point of departure were two years of crises (1418-1420): rife with epidemics, government changes, and economic recession.

In his carefully researched and very well written book, Christ examines ensuing conflicts between Egyptians and Venetians which have been framed so far as a clash of religions and civilizations. He takes a step away from this approach. Conflicts have been defined as struggle ensuing from misunderstanding, diverging values or approaches, and overlapping interests. In their core, they were all conflicts of interests over scarce resources: a characteristic common both for the past and present, and thus also applicable for the #Hanse world. This connects very specific clashes in ‘Trading Conflicts’ (e.g. about the sultan’s pepper or with the Coptic community) to (historical) conflict studies in general. The book and discloses that there struggles ran along various lines, including class and race. To follow the lines, the study combines micro- and macro-level analyses, and as such had been one of our prime #RetroConflictsInspirations. A good point for further discussion: Christ suggests that #premoderntrade created possibilities for #trust, not the other way round. Is this the benefit of the #globalmiddleages approach?[....]

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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. [....]

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The Merchant Republics (Lindemann)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

Our #retroconflictinspirations often link to our project’s big conceptual themes, from Zwierlein on ignorance, to Lantschner on logic, to Druckner and Olekalns on negotiation. But sometimes a concrete case can be just as illuminating. This morning’s #microreview is The Merchant Republics by Mary Lindemann. It traces the early modern histories of Antwerp, Amsterdam, and Hamburg through the lens of the changing idea of the ‘merchant republic’.

The term derives from historical discourse, and it stretches back into our own late medieval period. The book explores how it came to intuitively denote a particular kind of polity. Not always economically reliant on its merchants but still led and culturally defined by them. Early modern (and medieval!) citizens of Antwerp, Hamburg, and Amsterdam fretted about their urban liberties and the decline of ‘burgher values'. Worries which offer key intellectual background for their conflict management strategies and other political behaviour. Lindemann’s study of the merchant republic concept through a delicate balance of  the particular and the universal  is compelling, and the book ends with the tantalizing question of why some cities kept identifying with Merchant Republican ideal so much longer than others. [....]

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The Logic of Political Conflict (Lantschner)

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

It might be king’s day in the Netherlands but that cannot stop our urban #microreview! Today’s topic is Patrick Lantschner’s ‘The Logic of Political Conflict in Medieval Cities.’ Apart from being packed full with – sometimes overwhelming amounts of – sources and ideas, it is Lantschner’s methodological basis that provides #RetroConflictsInspirations.

Medieval cities were polycentric; they consisted of several (ooverlapping) political and legal units: neighbourhoods, guilds, factions, and so on. In such a landscape of political and legal pluralism, modern narratives of centralized order become misleading. Or: seen through the lens of urban polycentrism, conflicts in the city no longer simply appear as a disruption to an exiting order. Thus, instead of asking how conflicts were resolved and society returned to order, Lantschner concentrates on the process, on how conflicts were managed. While this idea forms a red threat in our project (as in previous microreviews), Lantschner’s focus on polycentrism could also provide new ideas for looking at the #Hanse which in its own way resists concepts of order and centralization.[....]

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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.[....]

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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.[....]

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