Nils Bock Jessika Nowak (Chair of the panel)

‘Civil Wars’ in the late Middle Ages: France, England, Burgundian Low Countries, Catalonia and Naples. Comparative Perspectives

Download iCal


Under the impression of social changes after 9/11, international terrorism and the war on terror, the idea of a global civil war arises once again. For decades, this construct of a world-wide civil war has been influencing the thinking of various intellectuals. New impetus was given by Giorgio Agamben, who stated after 9/11 that the area of depoliticized private life has been lost because the state could no longer guarantee it as a retreat or safe haven. The reason is that global civil war – characterized by terrorist tactics – is not carried out purely physically, but also in all arenas of today’s media world. All this increases general agitation and deepens contemporary divisions. The effects of the politicization of the private sphere on our societies cannot be foreseen, yet. However, statements about similar phenomena in historical contexts can be made, and we can activate the resources of knowledge of medieval studies for the benefit of the social discourse on civil wars. Though, the otherness of the Middle Ages seems to be an insurmountable obstacle. In medieval society, neither the public sphere nor the politically constituted community can be clearly defined, since a genuine concept did not exist. Therefore, it is difficult to find examples of its violent internal erosion. Nevertheless, we know medieval “internal conflicts” that escalated along social, religious as well as legal divisions and run the risk to destroy societies. At this point, the politicization of the former unpolitical area led to the formation of the public sphere in the Middle Ages. At the beginning of the section, E. Lecuppre-Desjardin will compare propaganda and polemics during the conflict between Armagnacs and Bourguignons in France and the Wars of the Roses. R. Chilà will then focus on the struggle between factions in Naples and its reception until the 17th century, while S. Péquignot will analyze in his paper the so called Catalan Civil War (1462-1473). G. Lecuppre and M. Depreter will finally study internal conflicts in Hainaut, Holland and Zealand in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Roxane Chilà (Paris)
Continue seditiones et tumultus: strife among the Neapolitan nobility in the late Middle Ages
As far as urban history is concerned, the great kingdom of Southern Italy is considered to be a much less interesting field of inquiry than the “political laboratory” of the Northern and Tuscan cities. The loss of the municipal and episcopal archives for the medieval period in Naples contributed to the disinterest of historians. However, the municipal system of the Southern capital is not totally unknown: it is composed of a double universitas. A noble universitas and a popular universitas, the latter corresponding to the “popolo grasso” elsewhere in Italy, that is to say, families who are not noble but who have the financial means to gain access to political representation. During the 14th century, a long conflict developed within the noble universitas, opposing the members of the urban districts of Capuana and Nido, who claimed to be the only truly noble ones, and those of Portanuova, Porto and Montagna, whom the former called mediolani, that is to say “intermediaries”. In 1380, the conflict escalated into a proper street battle that resulted in several deaths and put whole neighbourhoods under siege. Queen Joan had to intervene to pacify the city, but the conflict regularly reappeared thereafter, to the point of strongly shaping Neapolitan memory and historiography. Indeed, most chronicles and treaties devoted to the city in the 16th century intended to demonstrate the equality or inequality of nobility among the inhabitants of Capuana, Nido, Portanuova, Porto and Montagna districts. This controversy remained a true obsession until the beginning of the 17th century. This case study raises the questions of privilege and civic identities, of hierarchy between citizens, and of the memory of the conflict. Above all, I will try to determine the causes of the conflict and the reasons for its remarkable length.
Gilles Lecuppre (Louvain-la-Neuve)
Ungrateful daughters and unworthy mothers: political misogyny at the heart of civil wars in the Low Countries (13th-14th century)
Between 1224 and 1354, three major civil wars called into question the power of princesses in the Western part of the Low Countries (Flanders, Hainault, Zealand, Holland). Those conflicts, and most of all their outcomes, witnessed the increasing distrust towards feminine rule. We will naturally try to understand how nobles and towns proved ready to prefer young or dubious contenders to the legitimate lordship of their countesses. But we cannot but be appalled by the extent of the disputes, which degenerated into regional wars, where each faction was backed by foreign kingdoms or principalities. Moreover, in the last case, two parties emerged that were to structure Dutch and Zeelandic political life over 150 years. As for misogynistic propaganda, its effects were still perceptible throughout historiography down to the 19th century.
Élodie Lecuppre-Desjardin (Lille)
French and English civil wars: a laboratory for political innovation in the 15th century?
Anyone wanting to study the Wars of the Roses, the French Maudite Guerre or that of the Bien Public, could rely on an over-abundant bibliography. Each episode of treason, each battle, even the political manifestoes, which contributed to sustain the cause of the warring factions, are more or less researched. But rare are those who tried to compare the French and English civil wars in the aim to understand the impacts of these political disorders on the art of government. The purpose of this paper is to observe the consequences of such a time of radical and confusing transition on French and English governance. In other words: What was the aftermath of civil disorders in the making of policies? Moving back and forth between theoretical literature and practical decisions, I would like to focus on the evolution of coercive measures, ways of information and the role of morality and religion in a period where emergency could pave the way to arbitrary decisions and then to the reasons of State.
Stéphane Péquignot (Paris)
Politische Repräsentation des Landes in Zeiten des Konflikts. Das Beispiel Kataloniens während des "Bürgerkriegs" (1462-1473)
Während des sogenannten „katalanischen Bürgerkriegs“ (1462-1473) hat sich der aragonesische König Johann II. einem großen Teil seiner katalanischen Untertanen entgegengestellt, die sich hinter dem städtischen Rat Barcelonas, der katalanischen Generalitat und dem „das Prinzipat Kataloniens vertretenden Rat“ versammelten. Der Beitrag wird untersuchen, inwiefern dieser vielschichtige Konflikt die Modalitäten und Funktionsweise der politischen Repräsentation des Landes beeinträchtigte. In diesem Zusammenhang sollen die Verwendungen des Begriffs „Prinzipat“, die Entwicklung gleichlautender konkurrierender Institutionen sowie die Art und Weise, wie die politische Repräsentation selbst zum Gegenstand eines Konfliktes werden kann, analysiert werden.
Michael Depreter (Oxford)
Zwischen Wettbewerb und Komplementarität: Städtische und fürstliche Diplomatie während des Bürgerkrieges in den burgundischen Niederlanden. Eine vergleichende Studie zwischen den 1380er und den 1480er Jahren
An der Schnittstelle zwischen der neueren Geschichte des Politischen und der Geschichte der so genannten "internationalen Beziehungen" des späten Mittelalters angesiedelt, bietet eine akteurszentrierte Untersuchung die Möglichkeit, die Mechanismen der Diplomatie und die Bildung politischer Einheiten unterschiedlicher Natur besser zu verstehen. Im Rahmen des Vortrags sollen die direkten und indirekten diplomatischen Aktivitäten mit England stehen, welche die Grafen von Flandern sowie die Städte Gent und Brügge während der Phase zweier intensiver Bürgerkriege (1379-1385; 1487-1492) unternommen haben. Die Organisation der fürstlichen und städtischen Diplomatie, die einander ergänzen oder in Konkurrenz zueinanderstehen konnten, beleuchtet die Entwicklung der Machtstrukturen in der Grafschaft Flandern, die zunehmend in das neuerdings als composite state zu bezeichnende Herrschaftsgebilde Burgund integriert wurde.