The specialist session proposed here wants to look into the various manifestations of urban historiography in Europe warranting a comparison that has not been undertaken until now though urban historiography has become an important subject of research in the last years. Hitherto an isolated view on the historiographical production of certain countries or regions was prevalent whereas other areas have been neglected. A comparison would have to take into account the different constitution and social structure of the European countries. These differences determined the towns' chances to act independently and to establish a specific urban identity and legitimacy within their historiography. Especially between the great centralized monarchies and the more decentralized countries there are far reaching discrepancies. In the Holy Roman Empire, e.g., the Imperial Cities, the Hansa Towns and several princely cities produced a large number of town-chronicles from the Late Middle Ages up to the 18th century. Whereas there is a tradition of similar continuity in Switzerland we can find several examples of medieval urban historiography in Belgium and a vast amount of topographical-historical town descriptions in the Netherlands of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In Italy the earliest vernacular town-chronicles throughout Europe have been superseded by the classical examples of humanist historiography. But what about the time after Machiavelli and Guicciardini?
With regard to the centralized monarchies the question arises whether the predominance of the crown did hinder the flourishing of urban historiography. We know several diaries and short historiographical texts written in Paris and other French towns in the Late Middle Ages. In the same period a number of annals has been written in England, mostly in London. In the early modern times historical and topographical descriptions of several towns came into being. But what about Britain as a whole, Scandinavia or a country like Spain where a strong king met a self-confident urban culture and distinct regional differences?
In Central Europe we have to ask how far the towns in countries like Bohemia, Hungary or Poland could develop an original urban historiography in spite of the domination of political and social life by the aristocracy.
An important question forming the basis of Europe-wide comparison is whether urban historiography is able to establish a specific urban identity and legitimacy. Or does it emphasize the role of the towns within a kingdom or a republic? In this context it is important whether urban historiography is mainly a product of antiquarianism or if the chronicles and descripitve works mirror the mentality of various social groups in urban society.
The organizers of the session, Günther Lottes and Ernst Riegg, work at project "The Urban Culture of Memory from the late Middle Ages up to the 18th Century" which brings to the fore a hitherto neglected form.
Specialist session at the 7th International Conference on Urban History in Athens (27.10.-30.10.2004)(European Association of Urban Historians)
Please send a short abstract until 1.10.2003.
Prof. Dr. Günther Lottes
Dr. Ernst Riegg
(Forschungszentrum Europäische Aufklärung, Potsdam, Germany)
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