Miri Rubin

Dec 23, 2020

Cities of Strangers

Making Lives in Medieval Europe

Cambridge University Press 2020

Today we speak to Miri Rubin, Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary University of London about her 2020 Cambridge University Press publication, Cities of Strangers: Making Lives in Medieval Europe (Cambridge UP, 2020)

Professor Rubin is the author of many books, among them Charity and Community in Medieval Cambridge, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture, Gentile Tales: The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews, and Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary.

Cities of Strangers illuminates life in European towns and cities as it was for the settled, and for the 'strangers' or newcomers who joined them between 1000 and 1500. Some city-states enjoyed considerable autonomy which allowed them to legislate on how newcomers might settle and become citizens in support of a common good. Such communities invited bankers, merchants, physicians, notaries and judges to settle and help produce good urban living. Dynastic rulers also shaped immigration, often inviting groups from afar to settle and help their cities flourish. All cities accommodated a great deal of difference - of language, religion, occupation - in shared spaces, regulated by law. But when, from around 1350, plague began regularly to occur within European cities, this benign cycle began to break down. High mortality rates led eventually to demographic crises and, as a result, less tolerant and more authoritarian attitudes emerged, resulting in violent expulsions of even long-settled groups. Tracing the development of urban institutions and using a wide range of sources from across Europe, Miri Rubin recreates a complex picture of urban life for settled and migrant communities over the course of five centuries and offers an innovative vantage point on Europe's past with insights for its present.

Jana Byars is the Academic Director of Netherlands: International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender.

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