An Ethnogeography of Late Medieval Bruges - Evolution of the Corporate Milieu 1280-1349

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This work uses an ethnogeographic approach to synthesize commonly partitioned material and archival evidence to examine the urban history and cultural geography of Medieval Bruges from 1280-1349.


“Tom Boogaart’s book is a significant one, and typical of works of this ilk it will arouse much debate and meet with some opposition in the field of history, for several different reasons. This monograph is a ‘thesis’ in the full sense of that word, for Boogaart makes important arguments and should be listened too, even if some of his allegations will arouse protest. Whoever feels compelled to make them, however, should realize that Boogaart has built his thesis on a solid and concrete foundation: a thorough historiographical essay on urban sociology, a profound knowledge of two fields of study driven too far apart from each other in present practice (history and geography; hence the strange neologism in this study’s title “ethnogeography”) and, finally, an impressive insight into the local history of Bruges. The latter does not come easily which makes this effort all the more remarkable.” (From the Commendatory Preface) – Professor Marc Boone, University of Ghent, member of the ‘International Commission for Urban History’

“This is a superbly scholarly work. Conceptually thorough, analytically innovative and empirically rich, [this work] promises to become a classic, affording inspiration to scholars in fields beyond historical urban geography…..With meticulously researched documentary evidence, the author crafts a compelling picture of the ‘distinctive geographic signature’ of civic corporatism which, via a variety of symbolic and structural arrangements, succeeded in veiling sectional interests and harmonizing city, cosmos and community in Thirteenth Century Bruges.” Professor Anne Buttimer, University College Dublin

“Among medieval scholars, early 14th century Bruges has long stood a prime exemplar of late-medieval civic corporatism. But the nature and implications of corporate urban society are by no means clear. Taking the city’s famous victory over Philip the Fair on 1302 as his pivotal date, Tom Boogaart re-examines corporate Bruges ‘ethnographically’. His study is built upon an impressive array of sources: written – including some little used and demanding civic records – architectural, archeological and graphic. Similarly impressive is his use of concepts and theories of space and society drawn from a wide range of contemporary disciplines and thinkers…..Challenging many conventional ideas of medieval corporatism as well as conventions of urban historiography, the book makes 13th century Bruges surprisingly familiar in the fragile balance between social stratification and collective loyalty that its evolving institutions managed to secure.” – Denis Cosgrove, University of California Los Angeles

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Chapter 1. Introduction: I. The Corporative Evolution of Medieval Bruges: The Legacy of the Battle of Golden Spurs
II. Geography and the Urban Sociology of Medieval Flanders
III. The Power of Place: A Geographic Manifesto
IV. Sources
V. Overview of Chapters

Chapter 2. Between Prosperity and Crisis:
I. Economic Transition in Europe, 1270-1349
II. The Flemish Miracle 1127-1270
III. The Ascent of Bruges
IV. Crisis or Transition?

Chapter 3. A Community in Transition:
I. Rising Tension inside Town Communities
II. Genealogy of the High Medieval Community
III. Moving to Bruges: Profiling Immigration
IV. Settling inside Bruges: Growth of Town Suburbs
V. A View from Below: Strategies for Survival
VI. Official Responses: Incorporation of Town Suburbs
VII. A Fault Line in the Town Community?

Chapter 4. Revolt and Reform:
I. Seven Tumultuous Decades, 1280-1349
II. The Moerlemaye: Crisis of the Old Order
III. The “Revolution” of 1302
IV. A New Constitution? Synthesis of a Communal System, 1305-1349
V. Reconsidering the Revolution

Chapter 5. Building and Cultivating:
I. The Fourteenth Century Transformation of the European Town Milieu
II. An Archaeology of Town Design, Bruges 1280-1349
III. Reshaping the Town Fabric
IV. New Lineaments of Experience
V. A Corporative Signature?

Chapter 6. Ritual World-Building:
I. Eucharistic Processions and Late Medieval Towns
II. The Early Medieval Inheritance
III. From Communal Devotion to Civic Spectacle
IV. Resurrection of Christ and Community
V. Procession and Community

Chapter 7. Conclusion: The Milieu of Civic Corporatism

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