A political and institutional laboratory: urban communities between Seine and Meuse, 1050-1250

Project: ResearchResearch, Dissertation project


This research project intends to renew our understanding of urban
communities’ political affirmation and institutional construction between the
mid-eleventh and mid-thirteenth centuries. Our reflection will be based on
the area between Seine and Meuse, characterized by the earliness and the
strength of urban communities’ political dynamism, like the Rhine valley and
the northern Italy at the same time. In this context, it aims to fill an important
historiographic gap, which contrasts sharply with the scientific interest for
this research field in the two aforementioned regions or more generally for
the late medieval town. Assuming that the emergence of urban powers is a
long-term and multidimensional process, we will examine the
institutionalization of urban communities in the sociological sense of the
word, as the embedding of a new form of social organization. To think in
terms of Weber’s sociology, we will first focus on the association ('Verein')
of city dwellers, on the urban community’s organization into an "informal
body" able to influence the political game without a formal recognition by its
lord; once this recognition is formally acquired, we will examine the
evolution and the continuous elaboration of the urban community as an
institution ('Anstalt'). To meet deadlines while seeking concrete results, this
research will involve a necessary scale shift between a broad reflection
framework (between Seine and Meuse, in European context) and a smaller
analysis framework (between Somme and Aisne) in which we will examine
this process in all its complexity and in its various dimensions, by means of
a thorough study of the sources (political, institutional, juridical, social).
Short titleUrban communities (Seine-Meuse, XI-XIII)
Effective start/end date1/10/1830/09/19