New project: Age of Trust and Cooperation?

The Social Fabric of Urban Communities in England, Italy and the Low Countries, c. 1350-1550

12 September 2014

Arie van Steensel has been appointed lecturer in medieval history; he will also continue his NWO Veni project on the social fabric and institutional organisation of pre-modern cities and towns.

The research project focuses on the social roles of institutions in late-medieval urban society. Cooperative institutions, in particular, are generally regarded as an important innovation of the European Middle Ages. Scholars since Max Weber have made sweeping claims about the significance of these institutions for Europe’s unique path of development, and the debate about their characteristics and functions continue to this day. Remarkably, however, a systematic and comparative study of the role of these institutions in medieval urban society has not been undertaken so far. This project investigates the social fabric of a number of cities in Italy, England and the Low Countries, three of late-medieval Europe’s core regions. The ambition of the project is to assess to what extent the social activities of these corporations were beneficial to both individual members and the wider urban community, and how their organisation and functioning can be comparatively explained.


Arie van Steensel (1982) studied history and philosophy at Leiden University. After completing his doctorate in medieval history at the same university in 2010, he held postdoctoral fellowships in London, Florence and Utrecht. He specialises in the medieval and early modern history of western Europe, with a special interest in the urban history of Italy, England and the Low Countries

Published by  ACUH