Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by DominusNovus, Oct 12, 2017.
Could anyone recommend any good books on cities in the middle ages?
City states? Social/political/economic topics? Which region?
As broad as possible, European cities. Not looking for specific cities.
Well from what I've read, I would recommend:
Power and Imagination: City-States in Renaissance Italy
An general work that provides excellent info on social organization, etiquette, and political processes in the various republics, oligarchies, and urban princes.
There was another one that was more pan-European which contrasted city-states from the lower countries to Germany to Italy... I have it at home, just can't remember the name. I'll find it tonight.
There's also: Cities and states in Europe, 1000–1800 but that has more to do with their relations with their overlords. Still a fascinating read on the political thoughts and conditions for the cities.
EDIT: nvm, turns out the 2nd and 3rd are one and the same, just didn't recognize the author.
- La Ville au Moyen-Âge, by Jacques Heers is a very complete, if dry, approach. It covers urbanism, social management and economy, altough it covers politics only when it touch these topics.
To my, limited, knowledge it's not translated in English, but is in Spanish.
- La ville médiévale, by Patrick Boucheron and Denis Menjot is taking a more political approach, not only on inner urban dynamics but their relation to growingly bureaucratized feudal states.
Once again, untranslated AFAIK.
- The Growth of the Medieval City, by David Nicholas is a good sum (in two volums) and, which might be more interesting for you, in English.
Now, the diversity of political, social, economical and cultural situation in urban Christian Europe maybe calls for a more specific approach at times (the books I mentioned put good generalization, but I tend to think some cases, as in England are more easily glossed over) : are you interested on a specific topic and/or a specific region and/or a specific period?
I read John Julius Norwich on Venice, was very good
It may get me crucified here (the author's ideas being controversial) but I firmly believe that Pirenne's Medieval Cities: Their Origins and the Revival of Trade should be required reading for just about anyone. It's not so much about the cities as it is about their development and the historical context thereof. Even if one doesn't agree with Pirenne (and upon several points, I do not), this is one of those works one should read just to be aware of the arguments and to appreciate the masterful way in which it is written.
Pirenne's thesis is interesting, and that it polarize for or against it shows how much it's important for the early-to-classical medieval history.
Of course, his main points are to be nuanced in the light of new archeological and scientific evidences, but I find them to hold rather well. Let's say that when Pirenne lacked substance (and it was far from being a common occurence), he had intuition.
A good complementary study (or even a basic one), for what matter the development of towns and trade in North Sea would be Dark Ages Economics, by Richard Hodges (if possible, in its edition of 2012) which owes a lot to Colin Renfrew's take on historical development, mixed with an aggiornamento on Pirenne. It's clearly a scholarly book, altough the author knows how to make itself clear, and introduce the basic theories fairly well.
Pirenne's work is, a bit like Bloch's, to be nuanced with the new evidences, analysis and methodology, but remains more than just historiographical testimonies; so for one, I wouldn't crucify anyone on these.
An interesting lecture from Gil Stein of the Oriental Institute looks at Jewish butchers in, I think, Amsterdam in early modern period. It sounds a bit niche, but it's entertaining. It might be part of a larger lecture on butchery, actually. But I thought it gave an interesting, and rather unique, insight
This is the exact thing I meant when I wrote, earlier, about how much I appreciate your insights even though there are points where we vehemently disagree. And with an interesting reading tip to boot. I'll be picking up Dark Ages Economics when I next place an online purchase for books. Should make for interesting reading.
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