2004
Volume 123, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 0040-7518
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1163

Abstract

This contribution examines the function and use of violence by factions in the late-medieval city of Utrecht. In contrast to the existing perception that the power base of these groups consisted mainly of armed followers within the city, recruited on the basis of kinship, social networking, and patronage, this investigation into the violent outbreaks that occurred between 1400 and 1430 shows a slightly different picture. Firstly, faction leaders, whether operating from within the city or from outside (as exiles), were capable of organizing a fairly high level of private violence in order to remove the reigning faction from power. Secondly, those who participated in violent coups not only consisted of Utrecht residents, but also, and frequently, of non-residents. Although it is difficult to determine the exact numbers and nature of these followings, it can be established that participants were recruited on the basis of existing bonds with the faction leaders (with a role perhaps also for tenants on country estates), personal or collective grievances (e.g. within the guilds), or, not surprisingly, for financial reward. The readiness to use violence for political ends fits the violent feuding culture shared by different levels of society in large parts of Europe, but mainly within the aristocracy. It is argued that a comparison with feuding groups, factions, and armed retinues elsewhere might allow a better understanding of the composition and functioning of the late-medieval factions in Utrecht and the Low Countries as a whole.

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/content/journals/10.5117/TVGESCH2010.2.SMIT
2010-05-01
2021-10-15
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  • Article Type: Research Article
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