Call for Papers: ESSHC 2014

Call for Papers for a Session on ‘Urban Communities in Europe, 1300-1650: New Social and Economic Perspectives’ at the European Social Science History Conference (ESSHC), Austria, Vienna, 23-26 April 2014

Deadline for abstracts: 15 April 2013

Organisers: Justin Colson (University of Exeter) and Arie van Steensel (Utrecht University)

Communities in medieval and early modern urban societies, as in modern cities, were never static entities, but were created through a continuous process of everyday human interaction. Over the past decades, scholars have offered new insights into the collective civic and cultural identities of towns across Europe, through ritualised political celebrations and religious processions. The unity of the idealised urban community was, however, undermined by the multiple, often overlapping and competing, sub-communities within the walls of each town. Urban communities were constituted of numerous solidarities between town-dwellers who, for example, shared the same occupation, ethnicity, religion, neighbourhood or political objectives, rather than ties of kinship or fealty. Thus, the formation of urban communities was as much a process of inclusion as of exclusion; solidarity and conflict were two sides of the same coin.
Seeking to capture the dynamic process of community formation, this session takes a critical approach to current conceptions of urban communities in late-medieval and early modern Europe as an ideal, unified corporation, body or civil society. It asks how social groups within towns were constructed and reconstructed, and how they reflected a sense of social cohesion and identity. What kind of social institutions emerged from the interaction amongst members of differing groups and solidarities, and, in turn, how did these institutions come to structure these interactions? How were social and spatial boundaries between social groups created and sustained within the urban community? Above all, the session aims to tease out the social and economic factors that patterned the formation of urban (sub-)communities by comparing developments in different towns.
Therefore, this call invites contributions that develop new perspectives on the formation of urban communities in late-medieval and early modern Europe. One the one hand, papers with a more theoretical focus are welcomed, combining political-cultural with socio-economic approaches to the notions of community and solidarity. On the other, papers may examine specific case studies, for example, on the role of citizenship, occupational clustering, poor relief and parochial or neighbourhood life in shaping social boundaries and solidarities. Together, the papers should shed new light on the socio-economic conditions, the formal and informal institutions and the strategies of town dwellers that explain the similarities and differences in the organisation and functioning of urban communities in pre-modern Europe.

Further information:
Please send abstracts of around 500 words for papers to the organisers, Arie van Steensel ( and Justin Colson ( Deadline for paper abstracts is 15 April 2013. Candidates will be informed about the selection of papers by 1 May 2013, after which the session will be submitted to the ESSHC organisers.

If the session is accepted, participants are expected to circulate their full papers before the start of the conference. The organisers are planning an edited volume of the papers contributed to this session, which will be published afterwards.

About ESSHC: please visit the conference website.