Lords and Towns in Medieval Europe: The European Historic Towns Atlas Project (Hardback) book cover

Lords and Towns in Medieval Europe

The European Historic Towns Atlas Project

Edited by Howard B. Clarke, Anngret Simms

© 2015 – Routledge

574 pages

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Hardback: 9780754663546
pub: 2015-09-28
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pub: 2017-07-14
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This volume is based on possibly the biggest single Europe-wide project in urban history. In 1955 the International Commission for the History of Towns established the European historic towns atlas project in accordance with a common scheme in order to encourage comparative urban studies. Although advances in urban archaeology since the 1960s have highlighted the problematic relationship between the oldest extant town plan and the actual origins of a town, the large-scale cadastral maps as they have been made available by the European historic towns atlas project are still necessary if we want to understand the evolution of the physical form of our towns. By 2014 the project consisted of over 500 individual publications from over 18 different countries across Europe. Each atlas comprises at least a core-map at the scale of 1:2500, analytical maps and an explanatory text. The time has come to use this enormous database that has been compiled over the last 40 years. This volume, itself based on a conference related to this topic that was held in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin in 2006, takes up this challenge. The focus of the volume is on the question of how seigneurial power influenced the creation of towns in medieval Europe and of how this process in turn influenced urban form. Part I of the volume addresses two major issues: the history of the use of town plans in urban research and the methodological challenges of comparative urban history. Parts II and III constitute the core of the book focusing on the dynamic relationship between lordship and town planning in the core area of medieval Europe and on the periphery. In Part IV the symbolic meaning of town plans for medieval people is discussed. Part V consists of critical contributions by an archaeologist, an art historian and an historical geographer. By presenting case studies by leading researchers from different European countries, this volume combines findings that were hitherto not available in English. A comparison of the English and German bibliographies, attached to this volume, reveals some interesting insights as to how the focus of research shifted over time. The book also shows how work on urban topography integrates the approaches of the historian, archaeologist and historical geographer. The narrative of medieval urbanization becomes enriched and the volume is a genuine contribution to European studies.


"Created "in a spirit of reconciliation after the destruction of European towns during the Second World War," the International Commission for the History of Towns emerged in 1953 to study the rise and development of urban centers from the post-Roman period to more recent times. This volume begins to unite material from the over 500 national atlases currently produced. Although the title and introductory matter stress the role of seigneurial power, the essays take a more functional approach. Summing Up: Recommended."

- L. C. Attreed, College of the Holy Cross, CHOICE

"Overall, this monumental work captures the rewards and the challenges of comparative, coordinated, pan-European scholarship."

- Mark Bailey, University of East Anglia

"…one is full of admiration for the arduous editorial work invested in this book by Anngret Simms and Howard Clarke, and we can be inspired by some of the essays that depart from the rather traditional central theme, by Keith Lilley, Derek Keene, and Jürgen Paul for example, which explore the cultural background, the ideas behind medieval town planning, and the symbolism that can be detected in urban forms."

- Christopher Dyer, University of Leicester, UK

"This book is a welcome introduction to the richness of urban settlement across Europe and the role of effective historic mapping in managing the urban future."

- Brian Ayers, University of East Anglia, UK

Table of Contents

Contents: Ferdinand Opll: an appreciation; Introduction, Anngret Simms and Howard B. Clarke. Part I The Challenge of Comparative Urban Studies: The European historic towns atlas project: origin and potential, Anngret Simms; Comparative approaches in the historico-topographical analysis of towns and cities, Dietrich Denecke. Part II Case Studies from a National Perspective in the Core Area of Medieval Europe: The topography of power in the towns of medieval Italy, Francesca Bocchi ; The Atlas historique de Bordeaux: a newcomer to the series Atlas historique des villes de France, Sandrine Lavaud; Reinventing the German towns atlas? Trends in the development of a national historic towns atlas project, Daniel Stracke and Thomas Tippach; Seigneurial power and the development of towns in the Holy Roman Empire, Peter Johanek; The king and ’his’ town of Litoměřice/Leitmeritz in medieval Bohemia, Josef Zemlička; Seigneurial power and planning: aspects of the origins of towns in Austria with particular reference to Vienna and Wiener Neustadt, Ferdinand Opll; Town planning in the 12th and 13th centuries: symbolic meaning and pragmatic process, Martina Stercken; Lordship, economy and society in English medieval marketplaces, Terry R. Slater. Part III Case Studies from a National Perspective on the Periphery of Medieval Europe: Polish town plans as expressions of political and economic power, Roman Czaja; Royal power and urban space in medieval Hungary, Katalin Szende and András Végh; Medieval town plans in Romania, Paul Niedermaier; The medieval planned town in Croatia, Mirela Slukan Alti; Planning and regulation in the formation of new towns and new quarters in Ireland, 1170-1641, Howard B. Clarke; Town plans as expressions of political and economic power and ecclesiastical organization in Scandinavia, Marjatta Hietala. Part IV Symbolic Meanings of Town Plans: Medieval urban form in the Low Countries: state of research, comparative perspective and symbolic meanin

About the Editors

Anngret Simms is Professor Emeritus of Historical Geography at University College, Dublin and a member of the Royal Irish Academy. She has been a joint editor of the Irish Historic Towns Atlas from its very beginnings. She is one of the conveners of the atlas working group of the International Commission for the History of Towns.?

?Howard Clarke is Professor Emeritus of Medieval Socio-Economic History at University College, Dublin. He has long been an editor of the Irish Historic Towns Atlas and is the author of the fascicle for medieval Dublin. He is a member and former academic secretary of the Royal Irish Academy. He is also a member of the International Commission for the History of Towns.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Medieval