Financial and economic crises are recurrent in history. A special issue of Histoire Urbaine (33, 1 (2012)), entitled ‘Villes européennes et crises financières (XIVe-XVIe siècles)’, shows that in the medieval and early modern period cities played a crucial role in the development of such crises, just as they do today. Several case-studies on France, Spain and the Low Countries demonstrate that cities are and were financial and commercial centres which were governed by a small group of merchants, bankers and powerful families. And, as David Sassu-Normand notes in his introduction, medieval and early modern municipal authorities were even more adept than their twenty-first century counterparts in disposing of political power in order to tackle economic and financial difficulties. The close relationship between money and power in those cities made it easier for elite factions to abuse public revenues, because they could autonomously decide about urban spending and its fiscal consequences. Yet, he argues, the tied relationship between urban governors and the city's economy and finances could also have positive effects. Markets and budgets were not autonomous entities, because they were embedded in urban societies and manipulated by those who govern them. As a result, urban governors disposed of the political means to deal with financial crises, or at least to remedy some of their consequences. The case of late medieval Brabant, studied by Claire Billen and David Kusman in the same issue, shows that not only urban oligarchs but also less powerful citizens could intervene in the financial politics of a town (‘Les villes du Brabant face à la crise des finances du duché de Jean II. La crise d'une société entière?’, 63–80). In the duchy of Brabant, in around 1300, the ducal and urban finances were under considerable pressure due to warfare, manipulation of the mint and an economic downturn. In the principal cities of the duchy (Brussels, Antwerp and Louvain), discrete groups of citizens, such as craftsmen and self-made merchants, forcefully protested against the monetary and fiscal measures taken by the urban authorities. Their protests were not initially successful. By the 1360s, however, urban society had changed in Brabant. Both Billen and Kusman argue that the ideas that inspired the urban protests of the 1300s led to new, more successful revolts in the 1360s and afterwards. As a result, craftsmen gained rights of political participation in the cities mentioned. Using their newly gained political power, the rebels proposed constructive solutions to resolve the ongoing financial crisis in the cities of the duchy. The measures taken reflected the existence of a belief that the urban government should be fiscally sound and stable, and that it should not live beyond its means. Fiscal reforms led to more stable urban finances, though new challenges in the fifteenth century would upset the balance again. In short, the Brabantine case shows, once again, that politics and finance are closely knit together in the medieval city, but also, and more surprisingly, that social protest against headstrong governors ultimately led to far-reaching political and fiscal reforms. Therefore, this stimulating issue of Histoire Urbaine demonstrates that financial crises can have an unpredictable outcome.