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Village Community and Conflict in Late Medieval Drenthe

This new study by professor Peter Hoppenbrouwers focuses on conflict in village communities of late medieval Drenthe in order to depict a typical peasant society in late medieval Europe.

Peter Hoppenbrouwers
16 July 2018
Brepols Publishers

Village communities were the heart of the medieval countryside. But how did they operate? This book seeks to find some answers to that question by focusing on late medieval Drenthe, a region situated in a remote corner of the Holy Roman Empire and part of the prince-bishopric of Utrecht. Drenthe was an overwhelmingly localized, rural world. It had no cities, and consisted entirely of small villages. The social and economic importance of traditionally privileged sections of medieval society (clergy and nobility) was limited; free peasant landowners were the dominant social class.

Based on a careful reading of normative sources (Land charters) and thousands of short verdicts given by the so-called ‘Etstoel’ or high court of justice in Drenthe, this book focuses on three types of conflict: conflicts between villages, feud-like violence, and litigations about property. These three types coincide with three levels of involvement: that of village communities as a whole, that of kin groups, and that of households.

The resulting, comprehensive analysis provides a rigorous interrogation of generalized notions of the pre-industrial rural world, offering a snapshot of a typical peasant society in late medieval Europe.

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