EAUH Conference 2018


Session M02. Urban Citizenship, 1100-1800: Networks, Discourse, and Practice

Coordinators: Jelle Haemers (, Eliza Hartrich (, Maarten Prak (, Phil Withington (

Traditionally, the study of urban citizenship in 1100-1800 has concentrated on the specific jurisdictional and commercial rights accorded to citizens of particular towns. This contrasts with the approach taken by scholars of citizenship in ancient city-states and post-French Revolution nation-states; in both these contexts, citizenship is viewed as a broader category encompassing the individual freedoms, social responsibilities, political participation, cultural identity, and guarantees of welfare possessed by a member of a polity. More recently, however, historians have demonstrated that urban citizenship in 1100-1800 was not insignificant, uncomplicated, or narrow; it comprised a complex array of economic and political rights that kings, princes, nobles, and commoners fought over and debated. In this session, we will extend this re-evaluation of medieval and early modern urban citizenship by adopting a global perspective and looking more deeply into the social milieux within which urban citizenship operated. We welcome papers that address urban citizenship through any of three sub-themes: networks, discourse, and practice. The ‘networks’ sub-theme explores whether citizenship of a town or city in the medieval and early modern period conveyed purely local privileges, or if it facilitated links between residents of different towns. We would be eager to receive papers discussing regional, national, transnational, imperial, or colonial networks in all parts of the world. The ‘discourse’ sub-theme focuses on the ways in which urban citizenship was articulated and conceptualised; of particular interest would be papers examining the influence of classical ideas on medieval and early modern urban citizenship, or those addressing the ways in which the rights of townspeople were theorised in Asia, Africa, and the ‘New World’. The ‘practice’ sub-theme hopes to uncover the lived experience of urban citizenship, with a focus on social mobility and gender. Did the institution of urban citizenship encourage social mobility or stifle it? Were all citizens accorded the same rights, or did these differ based on gender or ethnicity? Were urban citizens expected to follow certain codes of dress, conduct, or gendered behaviour, and what happened if they didn’t? Were urban citizens often prevented in reality from exercising the privileges that belonged to them in theory? It is hoped that papers accepted for this session will generate comparative discussion of urban citizenship in different geographic and chronological contexts, and help to achieve a more holistic understanding of urban citizenship as an economic, social, political, and cultural category.
Keywords: citizenship; medieval; early modern; networks; discourse; social mobility; gender; global