Disorder was the eternal enemy of urban life. Violence, of course, was the most visible and dangerous form of disorder, and municipal authorities were constantly concerned to prevent arguments from turning into fights, fights into brawls, brawls into riots -- or riots, as occasionally happened, into revolts. But violence was only the most extreme manifestation of disorder. In fact all forms of disorder were held to be virtually synonymous with sin. And any behaviour that seemed to violate the divinely ordered pattern of human existence also threatened to upset the harmony of urban life. When women acted like men, or children disobeyed parents, or servants defied masters, or the poor aped the rich, then the world was in a state of disorder which cried out for correction.
The obsession with order was almost universal. It would be misleading to think of order only as something that the social and religious elites attempted to impose on the unruly masses. People of every social level were equally convinced of the dangers of disorder and shared a common sense of obligation to root it out. Some forms of correction obviously involved the imposition of authority by the more powerful over the weak: masters disciplined their servants, parents their children, teachers their pupils, husbands -- within limits -- their wives. But much discipline was also imposed by social equals against those whose behaviour was felt to undermine the status or solidarity of the group to which they belonged. And sometimes discipline was even imposed on social superiors. Journeymen, for example, normally stood under the authority of their masters. But the journeymen's association could punish members whose bad behaviour -- in or out of the workshop -- brought dishonour to the whole group. And occasionally the journeymen would even boycott