- Review of periodical articles
- Urban History
- Volume | Issue number
- 45 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School of Historical Studies (ASH)
Historians are held hostage by the sources that are available to them, and for that reason, the historiography of medieval towns is dominated by research on thirteenth-, fourteenth- or fifteenth-century case-studies. In preceding centuries, literacy was largely the monopoly of ecclesiastical milieus, who were often hostile or simply not interested in describing the urban settlements which then emerged all over Europe. An interesting exception, however, is the Breton town of Redon, which took shape around an abbey that was established in 832 with support of the Carolingian Emperor Louis the Pious. By navigating the unusually extensive set of Carolingian cartularies of this abbey, as well as the available cartographic and archaeological evidence, Julien Bachelier has developed an incisive sketch of the development of a town in the shadow of the Carolingian abbey in the eleventh and twelfth centuries (‘Une ville abbatiale bretonne. Redon du IXe au XIVe siècle’, Histoire Urbaine, 48 (2017), 133–54). This case-study confirms once again that the urbanization of medieval Europe was more than a side-effect of the rebirth of long-distance trade as the canonical Pirenne thesis would have it. The Redon case provides a valuable contribution to the revisionist perspective that stresses the importance of local demand from abbeys, episcopal palaces and castles as a stimulus for urban development (see esp. the seminal work of A. Verhulst, The Rise of Cities in North-West Europe (Cambridge, 1999)).
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