Call for Papers for a Session: ‘Studying Urban Communities in Pre-Modern Europe: Connecting Theories and Methodologies’ at the 12th International Conference on Urban History, Portugal, Lisbon, 3-6 September 2014
Deadline for abstracts: 15 November 2013
Organisers: Justin Colson (University of Exeter) and Arie van Steensel (Utrecht University)
Towns and cities in medieval and early modern Europe were not unified, homogenous entities, but were comprised of numerous interwoven communities, just as cities are today. Yet how were these urban communities defined within pre-modern Europe? Urban communities are frequently regarded as having been defined by institutions and by shared interests, ranging from occupation to location of residence and even ethnicity. Yet did political and economic structures and institutions define community, or conversely, were those institutions and patterns a result of communal identities and practices? Therefore, did changing institutional and political forms of the early modern period result in social change, or were they more symptomatic of this occurring?
This session examines this interplay at the period of transition between medieval and modern periods to re-examine debates relating both to the emergence of ‘modern’ forms of association, and the perceived decline of ‘traditional community’. In recent years historians from throughout Europe have been revaluating these issues from both perspectives. While many have followed Henri Lefebvre’s concepts of space and place to examine the city itself as an influence upon communities, others have embraced Keith Wrightson’s questioning of whether the medieval city had ever been more ‘neighbourly’ than the early modern.
Historians have also employed new perspectives and methodologies to examine pre-modern urban life, focusing upon such questions as citizenship, neighbourhood, migration, the role of guilds and fraternities, religious organisation and difference, and household strategies. The availability of different sources and the difference in social and political forms throughout Europe will offer a host of perspectives and comparisons of the forms of urban sociability and organisation.
New methodologies within the Digital Humanities are particularly important in unlocking urban sources in new ways, including Social Network Analysis and Geographic Information Systems. Scholars are using these methodologies to unlock source materials for pre-modern urban Europe, which are often voluminous and otherwise difficult to interpret, while digitisation projects are enabling large-scale analysis on unprecedented scales. Yet these techniques have their pitfalls, not least in terms of steep learning curves and technical constraints framing the scope and design of research. Are scholars in danger of diverging between those led by theoretical frameworks, and those led by Digital Humanities methodologies?
This session aims to bringing together papers covering a wide range of European contexts, and conceptual and methodological approaches, and provoke discussion into the fundamental nature of urban society in this key period of change.
Please submit paper proposals of no more than 300 words online at the conference website before 15 November 2013. Candidates will be informed about the selection of papers by 15 December 2013.
Selected paper 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 EAUH: please visit the conference website.