Walled Towns and the Shaping of France: From the Medieval to the Early Modern Era


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Originally a devout association of patriarchal clans, the polis came to be a small self-governing community of citizens, in contrast to the Asian empires and nomadic groups elsewhere in the world. For citizens, at least, the city and its laws constituted a moral order symbolized in an acropolis , magnificent buildings, and public assemblies.

When the exclusive requirements for citizenship citizens originally being landowning men with no history of servitude were relaxed and as new commercial wealth surpassed that of the older landed citizenry, social strife at home and rivalry abroad gradually weakened the common life of the city-republics. The creativity and variety of the polis gave way before the unifying forces of king worship and empire epitomized by Alexander the Great and his successors. To be sure, many new cities—often named Alexandria because Alexander had founded them—were planted between the Nile and the Indus, facilitating contacts between the major civilizations of Europe and Asia and giving rise to cultural exchanges and commercial trade that left a lasting impact on both East and West.

While remaining culturally vibrant, the city itself ceased to be an autonomous body politic and became a dependent member of a larger political-ideological whole. The Romans , who fell heir to the Hellenistic world, transplanted the city into the technologically backward areas beyond the Alps inhabited by pastoral-agricultural Celtic and Germanic peoples.

But, if Rome brought order to civilization and carried both to barbarians along the frontier, it made of the city a means to empire a centre for military pacification and bureaucratic control rather than an end in itself. The enjoyment of the imperial Roman peace entailed the acceptance of the status of municipium —a respectable but subordinate rank within the Roman state.

The municipia were supported fiscally by taxes on trade, contributions from members of the community, and income from lands owned by each municipium. Over time, however, the idea of public duty gave way to private ambition, especially as Roman citizenship became more universal see civitas. Municipal functions atrophied, and the city survived into the Byzantine era principally as a mechanism of fiscal administration, although it often remained a locus of educational development and religious and cultural expression.

In Latin Europe neither political nor religious reforms could sustain the Roman regime. The breakdown of public administration and the breach of the frontier led to a revival of parochial outlook and allegiance , but the focus was not upon the city. Community life centred instead on the fortress e. Early medieval society was a creation of camp and countryside that fulfilled the local imperatives of sustenance and defense. With Germanic variations on late Roman forms, communities were restructured into functional estates , each of which owned formal obligations, immunities, and jurisdictions.

What remained of the city was comprehended in this manorial order, and the distinction between town and country was largely obscured when secular and ecclesiastical lords ruled over the surrounding counties—often as the vassals of barbarian kings see manorialism.

Social ethos and organization enforced submission to the common good of earthly survival and heavenly reward. The attenuation of city life in most of northern and western Europe was accompanied by provincial separatism, economic isolation, and religious otherworldliness. Not before the cessation of attacks by Magyars, Vikings, and Saracens did urban communities again experience sustained growth. Recovery after the 10th century was not confined to the city or to any one part of Europe. Before the year , contacts with rich Byzantine and Islamic areas in the Levant had revitalized the mercantile power in Venice , which grew wealthy from its command of the profitable route to the Holy Land during the Crusades.

Meanwhile, merchant communities had attached themselves to the more-accessible castle towns and dioceses in northern Italy and on the main routes to the Rhineland and Champagne. They later appeared along the rivers of Flanders and northern France and on the west-east road from Cologne to Magdeburg see Hanseatic League. In all of these towns, trade was the key to their growth and development.

It was no coincidence that the 12th and 13th centuries, which saw the founding of more new towns than any time between the fall of Rome and the Industrial Revolution , also witnessed a singular upsurge toward civic autonomy. Throughout western Europe, towns acquired various kinds of municipal institutions loosely grouped under the designation commune. Broadly speaking, the history of the medieval towns is that of the rising merchant classes seeking to free their communities from lordly jurisdiction and to secure their government to themselves.

Wherever monarchical power was strong, the merchants had to be content with a municipal status, but elsewhere they created city-states. Taking advantage of renewed conflict between popes and emperors, they allied with local nobility to establish communal self-government in the largest cities of Lombardy, Tuscany, and Liguria. In Germany the city councils sometimes usurped the rights of higher clergy and nobility; Freiburg im Breisgau obtained its exemplary charter of liberties in Only few such sites have been identified in Britain, however, and they have almost no counterpart in France Quentovic being a rare exception , making a quantitative analysis impractical.

From these locations bishops, exercised power at a time when the church was central to many aspects of life. The bishops and their followers also produced and consumed various products and services, sustaining a spatial concentration of economic activity Nicholas, ; Fleming, Our next measure of proto urbanisation is more directly related to the location of economic activity in early medieval Europe, namely the minting of coins.

While the size and importance of early mints varied considerably, their presence suggests a concentration of local economic activity for a period where good measures of economic activity in both Britain and France are difficult to come by. For later years, however, we have more direct and conventional measures of urban activity in the form of population estimates. Because of the selection problems related to smaller towns, we focus on towns with at least 5, inhabitants.

Since town populations grew rapidly during the Industrial Revolution, we use an additional population threshold of 10, inhabitants or more for towns in Because the medieval era is important for our analysis, we also use Russell as an alternative estimate of town populations circa , before the onset of the Black Death.

For the period following the Black Death, we construct an indicator for the 50 most populous towns in Britain and France. This measure takes the largest 50 towns as reported by Bairoch for and adds the 50 largest town in Britain as measured by the number of taxpayers based on the poll taxes of —, as reported in Dyer It lists 60 towns in France, including 38 with 5, people or more. While the size of towns included in this measure most likely differs between Britain and France, this measure helps us understand the location of towns up to a fixed threshold in the town size hierarchy.

We also use these same cells to cluster the standard errors in our analysis below. This model allows for different possible scenarios. In Scenario 1, locational fundamentals consistently favour a particular location.

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List of cities with defensive walls

Here, even if a shock destroys the town, it will form again in the same location. In Scenario 3, even if first nature fundamentals or their value change, the town persists in its location for historical reasons — in the model it is held in place by agglomeration but in reality this may be reinforced by the value of past sunk investments. There are two variants to this third scenario: differences in first nature fundamentals may be relatively small and inconsequential; or they may be large but not large enough to shift the town unless it is exogenously destroyed.

Before proceeding with the econometric analysis of these possible scenarios, we begin our examination of the persistence of town locations from the Roman era by examining the data visually. Loseby discusses the efforts of Pope Gregory I to bring Britain back into the fold of the Roman Church in the late sixth century. The old Roman towns seemed like natural targets for the early missionaries but in many cases the location of power centres had already shifted by CE and the location of the newly established bishoprics had to adjust to the new reality.

Walled Towns and the Shaping of France

Towns in Roman and Medieval Times. The maps show the location of all the Roman Baseline Towns in our dataset and the location of later towns as specified in each panel for the Roman parts of Britain and France. See the data section for sources and definitions of towns. Colour figure can be viewed at wileyonlinelibrary.

The locations of coin mints in Britain bear relatively little resemblance to the location of Roman towns, unlike their counterparts in France. Finally, in the early Norman period, the location of towns with 1, people or more from to in Britain is again quite different from the location of Roman towns, while in France there is much more locational persistence. The maps also show that the difference in persistence of town locations is not driven by differences in the number of towns in absolute terms or relative to land area between Britain and France.

For example, early bishoprics are rarer in Britain, while coin mints are far more common. This is noteworthy for our empirical analysis below, since the number of larger towns with 5, people or more was lower in Britain compared to France for a long time after the collapse of Roman Britain.

Medieval Europe: Crash Course European History #1

While these measures of towns during the Middle Ages are admittedly imperfect, we prefer them, especially the population estimates of towns from to , to the more precise population figures from later years. This is because as we move beyond the Middle Ages, England become the preeminent maritime power and this could have affected the differences in its outcomes compared to France. Nevertheless, we note that the differences in persistence between France and Britain lasted for many more centuries.

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The picture today is still strikingly similar: only two of the top 20 British towns are located near Roman town sites, compared to 16 in France as a whole and still 13 in northern France, as defined above. Having examined the data, we now conduct more formal empirical tests of the persistence of town locations in Britain and France. Using the alternative Conley approach is computationally unfeasible given the large size of our data set. This specification allows us to calculate the probability that a site with and without a Roman town is used by a later town in both Britain and France.

We calculate this odds ratio because the spatial density of later towns differs by country over time; when the network is denser there is a higher probability that later towns might be located near Roman town sites purely by chance. We calculate the odds ratio as for France and for Britain and test the null hypothesis that these ratios are equal, as predicted by Scenarios 1 and 2, against the alternative that the ratios are different, as predicted by Scenario 3. The tests reject the equality of the odds ratios, consistent with the predictions of Scenario 3, where the persistence of town locations is high in France and lower in Britain.

This holds both in cases where there are fewer later towns per kilometre 2 in Britain than in France as in the case of the medieval bishoprics and in cases where the opposite is true as in the case of medieval mints. Our findings, however, show significant differences in locational persistence relative to the Roman urban network long predate the formation of separate national economies.

In panel c we restrict the area in France to its northern regions, which are more similar to Britain, and again our estimates are very similar to the baseline.

Early cities

Finally, panel h uses the same specification as in the baseline, except that now we control directly for measures of locational fundamentals and allow their effects to differ in Britain. Our findings are again similar, and perhaps even stronger, showing that the higher persistence of town locations compared to the Roman era in France is not driven by differences in observed locational fundamentals.

Specifically, we have added controls for the distance to Rome, even as this city fell into rapid decline during the Middle Ages, and for distance to Ribe, a town founded in Denmark in the early middle ages, which reflects the rising fortunes of Scandinavia during this period.

Five Walled Cities in France - Melange Travel

One particular concern is that Roman town sites in Britain may have remained locally important even if they declined in absolute size along with their local economy. This may affect our results on persistence if changes in climate or technology during the medieval era favoured areas in Britain that had few Roman towns, while perhaps inducing less regional change in France. As before, restricting the areas in France to its northern regions leaves the picture essentially unchanged.

This again suggests that there is no geographic determinism in regional pattern of town persistence. One potential concern for our identification strategy is that Roman choice of town locations may have, perhaps for military reasons, differed in Britain and on the continent. This approach relaxes the assumption that the Romans chose town sites in a similar way in Britain and France.

Walled Towns and the Shaping of France: From the Medieval to the Early Modern Era

It does, however, assume that Iron Age sites were more likely to serve medieval or later towns only because they also served Roman towns. To construct our instruments, we first identify the location of important Iron Age settlements known as oppida Fichtl, As we discuss above, these were focal points for economic activity, typically with some defences, which existed prior to the Roman conquest. But as column 2 shows, the statistical power of oppida in predicting town locations in Britain is weaker, probably because there were only 11 oppida in Britain.

We therefore also use data on the location of a broader set of major Iron Age settlements in Britain Jones and Mattingly, We use the location of Iron Age settlements from Fichtl and Jones and Mattingly as excluded instruments for and. The persistence of town location is still higher in France than in Britain, although the estimates are noisier and the ratios are significantly different from each other only in seven out of 12 of the cases. Across all town measures from to , the ratio of ratios Britain's divided by France's averages around 0.

Walled Towns and the Shaping of France: From the Medieval to the Early Modern Era Walled Towns and the Shaping of France: From the Medieval to the Early Modern Era
Walled Towns and the Shaping of France: From the Medieval to the Early Modern Era Walled Towns and the Shaping of France: From the Medieval to the Early Modern Era
Walled Towns and the Shaping of France: From the Medieval to the Early Modern Era Walled Towns and the Shaping of France: From the Medieval to the Early Modern Era
Walled Towns and the Shaping of France: From the Medieval to the Early Modern Era Walled Towns and the Shaping of France: From the Medieval to the Early Modern Era
Walled Towns and the Shaping of France: From the Medieval to the Early Modern Era Walled Towns and the Shaping of France: From the Medieval to the Early Modern Era

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