A lazy secretary found an innovative way to do his (boring) job – Fribourg, 1439

Picture yourself as the one following the officer in the review of his militia men. As last year, and the year before, you will have to produce again the same document, listing the names of all inhabitants enrolled in the urban militia, from inside and outside the walls. This includes the check of the defensive and offensive weapons which they carry, and have to possess and care throughout the year by law.

Instead of writing in details the different weapon categories (guns, staff weapons and crossbows) over and over again next to the names, you decide to draw pictograms. Not only is it quicker, but also more efficient when you have to provide sums of armed forces according to weapon categories at the end of the exercise.

Rôle des compagnies, ville et campagne, s.d. (1439). Fribourg, Archives d’Etat, Affaires Militaire 2. © Marcult 2019

The “military” organisation of the town at the time consisted of dividing the city in four quarters (Bourg, Hôpitaux, Auge and Neuveville), all of them having to provide men ready to defend the city in time of need, or from which armed expeditions can be manned. A network of neighbouring villages outside of the walls are assigned to each quarter. Around 1460, compagnies with names and banners appeared, still related to a specific urban space. This was probably influenced by other existing types of military organisation in neighbouring areas. On the one hand, the system of Reisgesellschaft found in Bern is comparable. On the other hand, states’ armies such as the ones of the Duchy of Savoy, which produced ordinances to regulate the compagnies, show similarities as well. No such document has been preserved for Fribourg. However, we do have lists of armed forces since the early fifteenth century during the transitional period before the compagnies’ organisation. Each company then held a book for the record and to report to the city council.

Cite this article as: Daniel Jaquet, "A lazy secretary found an innovative way to do his (boring) job – Fribourg, 1439," in Martial Culture in Medieval Town, 25/03/2019, https://martcult.hypotheses.org/243.

Conference review “Stadt und Militär. Konfrontation und/oder Kooperation” (November 16-18, 2018)

The conference “Stadt und Militär. Konfrontation und/oder Kooperation” (City and Military. Confrontation and/or cooperation) took place on November 16-18, 2018, in Ingolstadt. The event was organized by the Südwestdeutscher Arbeitskreis für Stadtgeschichtsforschung (South-west study network for urban history research). The conference details can be found on the organization’s website. The flyer of the conference is available here.

The conference began with a guided tour of the city fortification (14th c.), lead by Dr. Tobias Schönauer. The city walls were quickly extended to enclose areas around the town. Because of the large amount of space available inside the city walls, the municipal authorities did not have to destroy the defences to allow urban extension until the mid-20th century. In fact, the town’s strategical location in south-east Germany played an important role in the maintaining and upkeep of its defences. The conference’s organization committee especially pointed out the various layers of modification of the defences in the course of history, either of the wall itself or of the military facilities, therefore allowing the attendance to understand the materiality of the remaining defensive structures, such as the castle, parts of the wall and the 19th c. military facilities (garrisons and arsenals). The tour host provided us also with interesting insights into the archaeological research which has been conducted inside the military buildings. The impact of the city’s military function on its citizens’ everyday life became thus evident.  

The introduction to the conference itself set the event’s key questions and perspectives. Its main aim was to discuss the relations between citizens and soldiers (for example the problem of sexuality or marriage), either in time of peace and at war. The main presentation, provided by Daniel Hohrath (Curator of the Bayerisches Armeemuseum, Ingolstadt), raised questions about the soldiers’ social status in the early modern period, as they can be seen not only as a population on their own, but also as being the objects of representations (soldiers as strangers in the city or as symbols of the state).

The next day started with the presentations of the panel « Development of the military cities ». Tobias Echt, from the celtic-roman museum of Manching, talked about the development of the Colonia Augusta Troadenisis in the West of Greece during the classical era. His analysis did not only emphasize the importance of a roman defensive colony in the Troas region (actual West Turkey), but also showed that the roman colonists shared their rights with the citizens living in Rome itself. One of the key element in Tobias Echt’s analysis, based on epigraphical and numismatical evidence, was the social mobility of roman veterans after the Augustean times, as they were given land in exchange for their military service; not only did the veterans gain a quick access to high political functions in the city, but they also formed a social elite.

The switch to the medieval and early modern periods was led by Dr. Christian Ottersbach (art historian and scientific collaborator in Esslingen) who presented a general view on city defences of actual Germany’s South-West from 1500 to 1620. He chose to show the development of city defences within the «Long Middle Ages » as some elements of the medieval defences are still used during the early modern period. The apparition of gunpowder did not induce the abandon of medieval military structures, especially city walls, but merely forced the municipal authorities to modify over time the already existing structures. Even if the historiography acknowledges the late apparition of the Trace italienne (star shaped citadels), some cities tried to develop their own architectural innovations, experimenting with the shape of the fortification. For example, even if their disposition remained in accordance to the medieval times, city walls received towers and reinforcements that were able to withstand heavy fire. The city walls’ development in South-West German cities can therefore be seen as a succession of layers, the medieval structures being used as foundations for modern improvements (so called bastonierung). However, military necessities were not the only parameters eventually determining the form of modern foritifications : city walls were also a symbol of power, either for the city or the state.

The third presentation, by Max Plassmann (Head of the old Köln state archives), aimed to establish the link between the martial skills of Köln’s citizens in the early modern period and their social mobility. Indeed, as Köln was surrounded by potentially rival states, it developed a strong city defence. Military skills became a foremost quality for citizens wanting to rise to high administrative and political functions. For example, it was not uncommon for the city Burgermeister to have a founded military experience. It raises the question of the specific military carrier of the urban elites in other imperial towns, and of the possible differences between each one of those.

In the following presentation, archaeologist Dr. Ruth Sandner (Bayerisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege) gave an overview of the archaeological research made during the last two decades in Ingolstadt. These archaeological projects concerned mainly defensive structures integrated in the city wall, from the Middle Ages to the 17th century bastions. During the research, the main problem was water infiltration (Ingolstadt is located near the Donau river), which, however, helped in the preservation of organic objects. The next presentation, a summary of Manfred Bauer’s current PhD work (University of Munich), was topically close to the former, as it focused on the materiality of the soldiers’ everyday life between the 17th and the 19th century. Manfred Bauer used both new and already studied archaeological material, divided in two categories: primary (weapons) and secondary (armour, uniform, tools, games, pipes,…). This distinction allowed him to observe two moments of the soldier’s life: combat and training situations on the one side, free time or waiting situations (such as guard duty), on the other side.

The second panel of the day gave an overview on different types of defences on the basis of several case studies. Dr. Brigitte Huber, from Munich’s state archives, showed the importance of Munich as a strategical location for the garrisons under the reign of Maximilian I. The population of soldiers, along with their families, was always significant in the city. This provided not only a good defence against the outside, but also to the inside as the soldiers’ presence helped to maintain order. Dr. Beatrix Schönewald (Bayerisches Armeemuseum) focused in her presentation on Daniel Speckle (1536-1589), a Master builder who was largely influenced by the theoretical debates and technical treatises on the best way to build a city fitted for defence. She presented the main technical books on the subject, such as the Codex Matopicus (1529), Architectur (1583) and Architectura von Vestungen (1589) ; all these treatises focusing on the construction of the most perfect (geometrical) defensive city, but also on structural strenghthening, explosives and ballistics. In another case study, Guido von Büren (Museum Zitadelle Jülich) presented the defensive city of Jülich, which was designed by the Italian military architect Pascualini as a citadel, the little town nearby being only necessary for housing the civilians. In fact, the citadel housed more soldiers than were civilians in the nearby town. The citadel was built to sustain long time sieges, being merely a stronghold aimed at stopping foreign armies to go further into the territory. As a city, Jülich therefore rests heavily on one end of the spectrum «Militär» and «Stadt». In a similar vein, Benedict Loew (Städtisches Museum Saarlouis) then talked about the Saarlouis citadel from the 18th to the 19th century, built ex nihilo for housing a garrison and integrating the mills, the market and the storehouses directly into the defensive infrastructure. In fact, the life of the civilians living inside the citadel was organized around the military activities, the troops having the priority over civilians in the access to food, creating an inequality of treatment. However, buildings such as mills were progressively taken out of the citadel. The last two presentations of the day focused on the 18th and 19th century. Klaus Roider showed the importance of nobility among Nürnberg’s military officers in the 18th century when the prestige of military service was reserved for an an elite. Dr. Thomas Tippach (University of Münster presented an overview of Koblenz’s military aspects in the 19th century.

Overall, the presentations gave a large chronological and topical picture. I also noticed, by discussing with other researchers, that social questions were at the core of actual military history research, especially when seeing the soldier or fighter as a member of a certain social group that comes sometimes in conflict with the town’s citizens. Even if it was not addressed directly, the topic “Konfrontation und/oder Kooperation” was indeed the underlying subject of reflexion during this event.

In view of our project on martial culture, attending this conference brought many new insights into the social repercussions of military matters. This addresses the importance of the global approach chosen in our project, as some aspects of the urban landscape and political life were not only driven by the necessity to build a sufficient military power, but also by the rulers political and military ambitions.

Cite this article as: Mathijs Roelofsen, "Conference review “Stadt und Militär. Konfrontation und/oder Kooperation” (November 16-18, 2018)," in Martial Culture in Medieval Town, 25/03/2019, https://martcult.hypotheses.org/209.

[Conference] New conference about shooting societies.

Jean-Dominique Delle Luche and Thomas Fressin organise a one-day conference in South France (Crépy-en-Valois)

Journée d’étude – Samedi 27 avril 2019
Jeux de tir & milices bourgeoises sous l’Ancien Régime

More information on their website, stay tuned for a review of this conference on this blog in May.