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).


Workshop: Kaarten en Data


Kaarten en data. Digitale kaartapplicaties voor erfgoedbeheerders en onderzoekers

Donderdag, 30 juni 2016; Amsterdam


Digitale kaartapplicaties zijn niet meer weg te denken in de erfgoedsector en ook onderzoekers maken steeds vaker gebruik van bijvoorbeeld historisch GIS om archeologische of historische gegevens te analyseren en te presenteren. Het ontwikkelen van digitale kaartapplicaties vraagt echter de nodige expertise en vaak ook een forse tijdsinvestering, daarom is samenwerking en de uitwisseling van kennis noodzakelijk. Tijdens deze workshop presenteren experts uit de erfgoedsector en onderzoekers de mogelijkheden van digitale kaartapplicaties aan de hand van bestaande voorbeelden en lopende ontwikkelingen. Zij gaan daarbij in op zowel technische of methodologische vragen als op innovatieve toepassingen die nog ontwikkeld kunnen worden. Tijdens de middag is het mogelijk om eigen (onderzoeks)plannen te bespreken met de aanwezige experts, of om kennis te maken met GIS-software. De workshop biedt zowel erfgoedbeheerders als individuele onderzoekers de mogelijkheid om nieuwe ideeën op te doen en met elkaar van gedachten te wisselen over de ontwikkeling en verdere toepassing van digitale kaartapplicaties.


9:30     Ontvangst

10:00   Welkom – Arie van Steensel (Universiteit van Amsterdam)

10:15   Historische @tlas Nijmegen – Wouter Daemen (Regionaal Archief Nijmegen)

10:45   Van gedrukte kaart over wetenschappelijke databank naar publieksvriendelijke kaartapplicatie: of hoe MAGIS Brugge tot stand kwam – Elien Vernackt (MAGIS, Brugge)

11:15   Koffie

11:30   Historisch Leiden in kaart: verleden, heden, toekomst – Ellen Gehring (Erfgoed Leiden en Omstreken)

12:00   Georeferentie en rubbersheeting van oude kaarten – Jan Hartmann (Universiteit van Amsterdam / HISGIS)

12:30   Lunch

13:30   De mogelijkheden van Space Syntax in de praktijk – Marlous Craane (Antea Group)

14:00   GIStorical Antwerp. Historisch Antwerpen en omgeving ruimtelijk bekeken – Iason Jongepier (Universiteit Antwerpen)

14:30   Koffie

14:45   Parallelsessies: expertcommentaar op (onderzoeks)plannen of beknopte instructie GIS-software (ArcGIS/QGIS)

16:00   Discussie onder leiding van Roos van Oosten (Universiteit Leiden)

16:30   Afsluiting en borrel


Universiteit van Amsterdam

Roeterseilandcampus, Gebouw J/K, zaal JK 1.18

Valckenierstraat 65-67

1018 XE Amsterdam

Aanmelding en vragen

Aanmelden kan tot en met 15 juni 2016 per email bij Carlijn van der Baan ( Graag willen wij u vragen om bij deze aanmelding aan te geven naar welke parallelsessie uw voorkeur uitgaat. Als u graag wilt deelnemen aan de netwerksessie over onderzoeksplannen, dan kunt u uw ideeën (projectaanvragen, samenwerkingsinitiatieven) ook van tevoren toesturen.

Voor overige vragen kunt u contact opnemen met de organisator: Arie van Steensel (

Deze workshop is mogelijk gemaakt door financiële steun van NWO.

Conference Sessions on Urban Communities, 1300-1650

As part of our research on the history of late-medieval and early modern urban communities, my colleague Dr Justin Colson (University of Exeter) and I are organising two conference panels this year. We have brought together two sets of promising papers: one about new social and economic perspectives on the formation of urban communities in pre-modern Europe; the other about new (digital) methodologies that have been developed to examine urban life. The sessions are:

I will also present papers at both events myself, although in different panels, which are titled:

  • Guild Welfare in Urban Europe, c.1300-1550
  • The Building Blocks of Communities? Urban Neighbourhoods in Late-Medieval Europe

Call for Papers: EAUH 2014

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.

Further information:
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.

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.