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Review of periodical articles

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 April 2016

JELLE HAEMERS
Affiliation:
Department of History, University of Leuven, Blijde Inkomstraat 21, B 3000 Leuven, Belgium
GERRIT VERHOEVEN
Affiliation:
Centre for Urban History, Department of History, University of Antwerp, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium; Institute for History, Economic and Social History, University of Leiden, Johan Huizinga Building, Doelensteeg 16 - 2311 VL Leiden, The Netherlands; History Department, University of Ghent, Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 35 - 9000 Ghent, Belgium
JEROEN PUTTEVILS
Affiliation:
Department of History, University of Antwerp, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
PETER JONES
Affiliation:
Centre for Urban History, School of History, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK

Extract

One of the key concepts of Max Weber's writings on cities was that in north-western Europe, the landed nobility and urban elites were clearly distinguished. For Weber, this was indeed a main reason to locate the occidental city in the north rather than in the Mediterranean. Christof Rolker tackles this question in his ‘Heraldische Orgien und Sozialer Aufstieg. Oder: Wo ist eigentlich “oben” in der spätmittelalterlichen Stadt?’, Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung, 52 (2015), 191–224. The in-depth analysis of one of the largest and at the same time most widespread armorials in the late medieval Holy Empire, namely that of Konrad Grünenberg (d. 1494), demonstrates that in Konstanz (where Grünenberg lived) guilds (and not the nobility) first insisted on patrilineal descent as a proof of status. Traditionally, Grünenberg is seen as a paradigmatic social climber, as he left his guild to join the society of the local nobility (called ‘Zur Katz’). Yet his sumptuous armorial, containing over 2,000 coat of arms mainly from the south-west of the Empire, does not mention any single member of this noble society. Instead, it praises the tournament societies of which Grünenberg was not a member, and highlights chivalric events in which he never participated. This, Rolker argues, indicates that armorials were not only about status already gained or to be gained, but also a manual for contemporaries to discuss the social order in a more abstract way. In his ‘Wappenbuch’, Grünenberg constantly explains why he could not join the noble societies he praised, while at the same time he ignored the ‘Zur Katz’ association of which he was a member. Therefore, Rolker concludes that it was not only members (or would-be members) of the respective social groups who knew and reproduced social codes. So the boundary between noble and urban elites was more blurred than Weber claimed – though Rolker is of course not the first to criticize Weber on this. Clearly, Grünenberg's armorial was part and parcel of a wider discussion of origins and kinship, namely patrilineal kinship that took place in several social milieux, rather than simply a book which displayed inherited status.

Type
Review of periodical articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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References

1 Lynch, K.A., Individuals, Families, and Communities in Europe, 1200–1800: The Urban Foundations of Western Society (Cambridge, 2003)Google Scholar.

2 Laslett, P., ‘Family, kinship and collectivity as systems of support in pre-industrial Europa: a consideration of the ‘nuclear-hardship’ hypothesis’, Continuity and Change, 3 (1988), 153–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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