Session at the European Association for Urban History Conference: Cities in Motion 2020

Premodern movement of goods and information between cities was limited by the constraints of space and time. It is therefore vital to know the underlying infrastructure, which can be analysed as a network - with roads and rivers as edges and urban centres, i.e. markets and fairs as nodes. This is helpful to understand the dynamics of urban economic cycles, trade routes and communication networks.

The specialist session addresses the lack of research in the field of premodern traffic infrastructure. Traffic can be interpreted as movement within a network, with settlements being the nodes and connecting routes the edges. This approach will foster new insights into the dynamic movement of information, persons and goods over time. This session shall focus on different aspects of the interrelations between the city as origin and destination of movement in the network, as settlement, as market or at the same time as obstacle for free movement and the road and river network that defined the speed and path of movement and communication. What was first? Settlement or pathway? And how then did the city shape and change the road (and river) network according to its needs? Soft factors shaping the network might include the agency of urban groups that define the very manifold and different needs for traffic infrastructure without an urban economy could not survive, for example staple rights, markets, toll stations or routes of conduct. And finally: Which role do the physical aspects play, most prominently the terrain, harbour and market infrastructure? Different methods can be applied for the analysis, from traditional approaches of historical research to digital analysis of movement and network, normally GIS, or questions of usage and conception of this traffic network.

Papers from all premodern epochs are welcome as the main focus of this session is to identify methods of analysis and get to know current mapping projects.

  • Spokesperson: Niels Petersen, University of Göttingen
  • Co-organizer(s): -
  • Keywords: History of traffic | Medieval urbanisation | Digital mapping
  • Time period: Premodern period (covering more than one period)
  • Topic(s): Economic | Geographic Information Systems
  • Study area: Europe