Symposium: Scaling Fences


Scaling Fences. Integrative Approaches to the History of Medieval and Early Modern Cities

Friday, 1 July 2016, Amsterdam


A diversification of approaches and methodological specialisation in the past decades have contributed to a better understanding of medieval and early modern urban societies. At the same time, our insights into the process of urbanisation are becoming increasingly fragmented and compartmentalised. Hence, this workshop aims to address the interrelatedness of the political, economic, social, cultural, morphological and environmental processes that generated and shaped urban societies and landscapes. The participants will not propagate a single holistic approach, but rather explore themes, methodologies and theories that allow us to analyse and explain the interdependence of the various domains of medieval and early modern urban society. Some papers take a macro perspective on urban society, for example, by analysing complementarities between political, legal and economic institutions, while others develop case studies to examine the behaviour of individuals whose activities cut across political, economic, social or cultural boundaries. In sum, the key questions of this workshop are: how and to what extent did the different domains of urban society tie in with each other? What are possible and fruitful approaches to develop a more integrated understanding of the processes, institutions and practices that constituted medieval and early modern urban societies?


09:00 Coffee

09:20 Welcome

Chair: Jaap Evert Abrahamse (Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency)

09:30 Katalin Szende (Central European University) – Town Plans as Ground Plans of Power. Thirteenth-Century East Central Europe in Context

10:15 Hélène Noizet (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) – ‘Fabrique urbaine.’ How did Social Practices shape the Medieval Urban Morphology?

11:00 Break

Chair: Arie van Steensel (University of Amsterdam)

11:15 Stephan Sander-Faes (Universität Zürich) – ‘Il popolo di questa città è devotissimo’, but: Who are ‘the People’? Urban Prosopography, its Limits, and some Suggestions

12:00 Jeff Fynn-Paul (Leiden University) – The Origins of Capitalism? New Perspectives on the Old Idea that Late Medieval Cities (and their Merchants) were the Epicentre of Global Capitalism

12:45 Lunch

Chair: Mario Damen (University of Amsterdam)

14:00 Arie van Steensel (University of Amsterdam) – Continuity and Change in Late-Medieval Urban Institutions. An Ecological Approach

14:45 Francesco Ammannati (Università Bocconi) – From Guild to Università. The Changing Fortunes of the Florentine Arte della lana Between the Fifteenth and the Sixteenth Century

15:30 Break

Chair: Roos van Oosten (Leiden University)

15:45 Leona Skelton (University of Bristol) – Environmental Attitudes in English Towns, 1560-1750. Reconnecting Townspeople with Nature

16:30 Janna Coomans (University of Amsterdam) – Crossing Boundaries for Urban Health. Fighting Fire in the Late Medieval Low Countries

17:15 Conclusions

17:45 Drinks

19:00 Dinner for speakers


University of Amsterdam

Universiteitsbibliotheek, Vondelzaal

Singel 425

1012 WP Amsterdam

Participation and further questions

Participation is free, but all participants are kindly requested to register at the latest on 22 June 2016 by email to Carlijn van der Baan (

For further questions, please contact the organiser Arie van Steensel (

This workshop is financially supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).