Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The urban community

[Above: guildhouses in the Grote Markt, Antwerp]

How is a city defined?

Legally and juridically a city was a corporate community embodied in its citizens, the adult male heads of households. Economically, by the standards of the 16th and 17th centuries a major city was one with a population of around 100,000 people.

In 1500 there were only four cities of this size: Paris, Venice, Naples and Istanbul. (Antwerp reached this figure briefly in the middle of the 16th century.) By 1600 there were twelve European cities of 100,000 or more: the new arrivals included Lisbon, Seville, London, Rome, and Moscow.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

List of recommended books

Briggs, Robin, The West: Encounters and Transformations (Longman, 2007)
Cameron (ed), Early Modern Europe: An Oxford History (OUP, 2001)
___________The Sixteenth Century (OUP, 2006)
Clark, Stuart, Thinking with Demons: the Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe (OUP, 1997)
Cowley, Roger, Empires of the Sea: the Final Battle for the Mediterranean (Faber, 2008)
Davis Natalie Zemon, The Return of Martin Guerre (Harvard University Press, 1983)

The shape of the century

(You can click on the map to enlarge it.)

Great events
The ‘early modern’ period is usually dated from the 1450s, the decade that saw the invention of printing with moveable type and the fall of Constantinople to the Turks. The ‘long sixteenth century’, from c.1450 to c.1600 witnessed major changes: the Renaissance, the Reformation, the rise of capitalism, the voyages of discovery, and the growth of the nation state. All these changes are problematic and their meanings are disputed.

The rural community

Longue durée
The famous French historian Ferdinand Braudel used disciplines such as economics and anthropology to discern deep unchanging patterns in history. This is somewhat different to the Anglo-Saxon school of historical writing that has concentrated on the big picture of change over time. The influence of Braudel can be seen in the studies of rural life and beliefs by historians such as Natalie Zemon Davis and Carlo Ginzburg. These authors do not deny the existence of change but they are also interested in microhistories and the analysis of popular mentalités.

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Netherlandish Proverbs

Early modern Europe was a predominantly rural society. In western and central Europe c. 1600 fewer than 5% of the people lived in some hundred ‘cities’ of over 20,000 inhabitants each. A further fifth lived in small country towns. The rest (75%) lived in rural communities.