Urban stability and civic liberties: two fundamental concepts and the practice of crime control in early modern European cities (1400-1800)
Social stability -- Germany -- History -- 1400-1800 Crime prevention -- Germany -- History -- 1400-1800 Crime prevention -- Germany -- Citizen participation Κοινωνική σταθερότητα -- Γερμανία -- Ιστορία -- 1400-1800 Έγκλημα, Πρόληψη του -- Γερμανία -- Ιστορία -- 1400-1800 Έγκλημα, Πρόληψη του -- Γερμανία -- Συμμετοχή πολιτών
The paper examines a fundamental shift in the perception and practice of issues of urban stability in German towns. While in late medieval towns, the citizens themselves were for the most part responsible for the settlement of conflicts and fulfilled duties as guards and night-watches, the town council took over control in a a long-ranging process, which started during the 15th century. Citizens did never withdraw completely from public service as night-watch etc. However urban stability (‚Stadtfrieden‘) was more and more conceived as a task of the authorities. A clear sign of the development is that citizens loose their traditional right to bear arms in public. While during the late middle ages, a diverse personnel of beadles and guards went on patrol through the alleys, urban stability gained a new quality with the introduction of soldiers from the 17th century on. Frequent conflicts between guards or soldiers and citizens show that the popular perception distinguished between legitimate and illegitimate violence. Against the backdrop of the shift in means of control, the nature of petty conflict in early modern alleys and taverns changed. Everyday conflicts in the public sphere became less ritualized. Citizens and other groups of town dwellers could henceforth call the guards or take a case to law, in order to settle a dispute.
Paper presented at Seventh International Conference on Urban History: European City in Comparative Perspective, Panteion University, Athens - Piraeus, Greece, 27-30 October 2004, Session: Urban stability and civic liberties: two fundamental concepts and the practice of crime control in early modern european cities (1400-1800)