Call for papers EAUH: Charity, poor relief and the sense of community, ca. 1200-1900

Call for papers European Urban History Conference 2014 Lisbon, Portugal (3-6 September 2014)

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Charity, poor relief and the sense of community, ca. 1200-1900

Charity, mutual aid and poor relief have all figured prominently in research on late medieval and early modern cities. Major transformations have been exposed, for the sixteenth century and the end of the ancien régime in particular. These transformations have moreover been attributed to a wide variety of, often interrelated, causal factors. Specifically, proletarianization and the disciplining of workforce, religious transformations such as the Reformation, confessionalization and secularization, and state formation and the growing importance of market forces are all considered to have transformed the structures, institutions and practices of charity, mutual assistance and poor relief. However, while all these factors potentially affect the mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion involved, the community building capacity has seldom been tackled head on.

Practices of charity and alms giving as well as the organization of poor relief or mutual assistance always imply a sense of ‘community’. All assistance and relief was in one way or another reserved for a specific group considered ‘deserving’, be that co-religionists, fellow townsmen, members of a particular guild, confraternity or quarter, etc. When allocating aid or relief to one specific group, the inside group is tightened as well as its boundaries sharpened to outsiders. But, while the mechanism as such may be virtually universal, the actual definition and delineation of communities changed considerably over time and across regions and contexts. This is particularly relevant for cities, which may up to a certain degree be considered a single community from the perspective of public aid, but in reality consisted of different communities within (and indeed across) the city.

This session wants to gain deeper insight in the community building capacities and the related exclusionary mechanisms of charity, mutual aid and poor relief mechanisms in late medieval and early modern cities. Which communities were implied or shaped by the organization of public assistance and poor relief, who had access to relief systems, and what community thereby served as a frame of reference? Did the boundaries created coincide with the city, a parish, families or urban ‘corpora’ such as guilds and fraternities? Did poor relief strengthen the idea of a civic community or rather a confessional one? And last but not least: how did this change in the long run and why?

We welcome case studies cases from all over Europe and beyond, so as to get a grip on both long term transformations and a wide variety of contextual factors.

Please submit an abstract of maximum 300 words on the EUHC2014 website before 15 October 2013. More information on the European Urban History Conference 2014 and paper proposals: www.eauh2014.fcsh.unl.pt.

Hadewijch Masure
PhD in History
Centre for Urban History
University of Antwerp
S.R-A-111, Rodestraat 14
2000 Antwerpen
Belgium
T: +32 3 265 40 67
E: hadewijch.masure@ua.ac.be

Professor Steven King
Professor of Economic
and Social History
School of Historical Studies
3/5 Salisbury Road
University of Leicester
Leicester LE1 7SR
T: 0116 252 2760
E: sak28@le.ac.uk