Mediterranean Urban Culture, 1400-1700

Mediterranean Urban Culture, 1400-1700

Mediterranean Urban Culture, 1400-1700

Mediterranean Urban Culture, 1400-1700


Was there a distinctive Mediterranean urban culture in the early modern period? In this collection, a team of international scholars from a wide range of disciplines use a variety of approaches - literary, art-historical, cultural, social and economic - to demonstrate both the range of collective urban experience in the Mediterranean and the complexity of the nature of urban culture at that time. The book, after an Introduction by the editor, is divided into three sections: neighbours and neighbourhoods; religion, ethnicity and minority groups; culture, politics and society. The coherence of the collection sets up resonances and comparisons which confirm a considerable unity in the concept of Mediterranean urban culture in its broadest sense.


Alexander Cowan

Every book requires some justification. the subject matter of this collection of essays about Mediterranean urban culture between 1400 and 1700 may require more than most, for it has much which is new, and much which is familiar, although in unusual settings. We begin with Fernand Braudel. His study of the Mediterranean world in the later sixteenth century has introduced every post-war generation of historians not only to the complexity of the Mediterranean region, but also to a whole range of unities, climatic, geographical, technological, economic, which provided both a framework and many of the stimuli for long-term change. For Braudel, urban centres were at the heart of this Mediterranean system. Whatever their own individual character and experience, they shared a series of common functions, which not only brought them together as a type of human organisation, but brought the Mediterranean together as a human unit. Traced upon the enormous surface of the sea and its hinterland were the trade routes—communication links, which served to move goods, travellers, ideas, military forces, and news. As Braudel wrote, ‘The prevailing human order in the Mediterranean has been one dictated primarily by towns and communications, subordinating everything else to their needs’.

The work of Braudel and his successors in what has now become the mainstream of French historiography has altered many priorities in writing about the past. While politics and political organisation remain important subjects of enquiry, they are rarely seen as starting points for broader discussions. Amorphous entities like the economy, society or social change have taken over from politics and political organisation as organising motifs.

A less widespread and still ill-defined approach is that of the cultural historian. in many ways the ‘cultural’ approach arises out of the techniques . . .

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