Urban Communities in Early Modern Europe – A Research Review

The idea of community, and the kinds of behaviours and relationships that give communities form, has been back on the agenda of early modern studies in recent years – partly inspired by questions about social capital and how it’s accumulated, partly by fresh interest in the textures of urbanism, in the relationship between people and the built environment. The Urban Communities in Early Modern Europe, c1400-1700 project, an AHRC Connected Communities scoping study which ran from March to October 2011, assessed the state of historical research and suggested new lines of enquiry.

During the review process we were broadly interested in how historians have addressed:

  • How communities were connected to a city’s physical spaces, to everyday routines, rituals, objects, sounds and smells associated with place
  • Urban networks, according to age, class and gender and ethnicity; strong and weak experiences of belonging, and of difference; the relationship between urban identities and communities
  • The rhetoric and politics of community; how ‘community’ was mobilised to identify groups, sets of values and beliefs, and boundaries, lend solidarity and agency to insiders and disempower others, and initiate or resolve conflicts.
  • Ideas of community in political and religious thought; its representation in the visual arts and in literary works

The project is complete, but we are maintaining this website, which carries extra content related to the review. This includes interviews with historians working on aspects of early modern community, and a link to our wiki-bibliography, which was built up by the reviewers and other contributers. The entire project – a short report, the interviews and references – is also available as a single PDF document posted on this site. We hope this will be a useful tool for research and teaching.

The project was conducted by Prof Fabrizio Nevola (Principal Investigator) and Dr David Rosenthal (Postdoctoral Research Officer) through the University of Bath.