How the city air made us free: The self-governing medieval city and the bourgeois revaluation

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Abstract

The Great Enrichment of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries involved unprecedented increases in living standards across Europe and its offshoots. I argue that McCloskey’s characterization of the emergence of a bourgeois ethics and dignity as exogenous to the institutional environments is not convincing. Rather, the constitutional development of the selfgoverning medieval city was a necessary condition for the ethical and rhetorical change that McCloskey emphasizes. Furthermore, a bourgeois ethics and dignity were likely emerging in European cities as early as the twelfth century as a result of constitutional bargains. Given that literacy was largely confined to the clergy during the High Middle Ages, a paucity of premodern evidence for this emergence is not surprising.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-47
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Private Enterprise
Volume32
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

Keywords

  • Bourgeois revaluation
  • Constitutions
  • Great enrichment
  • Institutions
  • Medieval city
  • Polycentric sovereignty

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