EAUH Conference 2018


Session SS14. The Resilience and Conflict-Solving Abilities of Urban Elites in Early Modern Central-Europe (1500-1800)

Coordinators: Iwona Barwicka-Tylek (, Ferenc Hörcher (

Citizen bodies of early modern cities seem to have been able to preserve their elites in spite of the internal turmoils for a comparatively long time. The literature on the early modern city keeps emphasising the conservative tendencies of these elites, while not providing explanations how they could so successfully survive in an increasinly dynamic and unstable environment.
This session is going to address the virtues of the urban elites which allowed them to survive in an increasingly risky and moving environment. This is a question of the utmost urgency in Central_Europe, where in the early modern period political conditions were perhaps even less stable than in some other parts of Europe, and where the new opportunities did not allow cities to grow so dramatically as in the more fortunate parts of Europe. Beside inner city-politics, which has been already widely researched, two special issues are to be tackled in this session. One is the relationship of the courts of the territorial states and the cities in social systems, where the nobility had a rather substantial legal-constitutional and practical influence. Apparently urban elites had rather good social connections to and in the courts which enabled them to defend their interests in the new context of the large, centralised or decentralised state. It is interesting to see differences in the diplomatic and high political strategies of the urban elites to gain influence in the courts (or in regional and Land-contexts). The other major issue concerns the new economic challenges urban elites had to deal with. Although we know that the early modern period witnessed major changes on city level and in the national economic arrangements as well, further investigations are required to see how the economic success or failure of certain cities are connected to virtues or failures of urban elites to tackle the challenge.
The session has temporal and a geographic boundaries. It is interested in the early modern period (ca. 1500-1800) only. It is focusing geographically to Central Europe - meaning in this case the German speaking countries, the emerging Central European Habsburg empire, Northern Italy and the historical regions of the present V4 countries. It encourages comperative investigations, and a search for both parallels and differences. Multi-disciplinary methodologies applied to answer the problem will be preferred.
Keywords: urban elites; problem-solving abilities; internal conflicts; cities and courts; economic adaptation; early modern Central-Europe