The ‘modernity’ of medieval oopular revolt

Cohn, S. (2012) The ‘modernity’ of medieval oopular revolt. History Compass, 10(10), pp. 731-741. (doi: 10.1111/hic3.12000)

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This essay argues that late medieval European popular protest fails to fit the pattern of ‘pre-modern’ revolts in models devised by historians and social scientists over the past 50 years. By their criteria late medieval in fact appear more ‘modern’ than those of the early modern period and even those of the 21st century as seen with the English summer riots of 2011 and the ‘Arab Spring’. Late medieval revolts differed from the 21st century ones in three cardinal respects: (1) unlike the English riots that flared more or less spontaneously, drawn together by instantaneous social networking, late medieval ones relied on planning, assemblies, fraternities, elections of leaders, and negotiation; (2) the present intertwining of religious dogma with struggles for social and economic justice seen in the Arab Spring, was largely absent from revolts of the later Middle Ages; even strife between English burgesses and the Church focused on concrete economic and political rights without resort to religious language or ideology; and (3) unlike the mass brutality and repression seen today in Syria, such massacres of the innocents were rare in the later Middle Ages. Instead, a large proportion of late medieval revolts succeeded.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cohn, Professor Samuel
Authors: Cohn, S.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Journal Name:History Compass

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