The struggle for urban space in the later medieval city. The case of Bruges (c. 1300 - c. 1580)

Start - End 
2016 - 2020 (ongoing)
Department of History
Research Focus 



Medieval urban space did not evolve in straightforward or linear ways. Depending on socioeconomic,political and symbolic interests of various actors, groups and institutions it wasappropriated, controlled, fragmented, recomposed, reorganized, reinvented and put to otherusages. Medieval historians have tended to study the development of urban space in apredominantly structuralist way, focusing on the interplay between the physical environment andgeneral changes in demographic, industrial and commercial circumstances, or else on top-downinitiatives in urbanism. However, they have mostly neglected the spatial effects of the agency ofdifferent social groups with often conflicting interests. This project, which focuses in a comparativeperspective on late medieval Bruges, considers power and conflict as central to the formation ofmedieval urban landscapes. Making use of cartographic, archival, toponymic, iconographic andarchaeological evidence, the strategies of different social groups (e.g. property-owners,international merchants, feudal lords, hostellers, small retailers) and the institutions they formed(e.g. guilds, urban government) are considered central in explaining the development of the urbanlandscape.



Phd Student(s)


Peter Stabel

University of Antwerp