Significance of Urban Life to Medieval Society Course ID Date The Middle Ages was an era of great economic and terrestrial development which had its impacts on society, religion and arts. During this period, urban and rural areas showed development in their own distinct ways however modernization of urban living style transformed Middle Ages greatly…
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Furthermore, growth in trade and more attention was paid to literacy along with migration from rural areas that reshaped the outlook of cities and towns. The dynamic culture which emerged after urban development in Middle Ages laid down a foundation of development in economy, society, religion, arts and politics. Urban areas in medieval society comprised of small colonies having a very small population as compared to cities and towns of present day. It is also important to note that these medieval cities were also not as civilized as modern cities are today. Territorial expansion, increase in population, development of trade and migration in urban areas are some of the major traits of urbanization in middle ages. Due to increased employment and business opportunities, merchant class emerged as an important social and demographic segment which reshaped overall social hierarchy in mediaeval society. Since earlier social segregation comprised of aristocracy, peasants and clergy, the social hierarchical system had no place for merchants which further lead to migration of merchants to other towns and cities. Earlier residential areas and cities comprised of undersized housing units with very small cover areas with narrow confined streets. It was after the development in trade when requirement of bigger streets for transportation and warehousing increased causing construction of bigger housing units and acquisition of more land leading to expansion in territories. Since urban population was not mainly involved in direct labour, they had more opportunities to pay attention to education which lead to increased in literacy in medieval Europe. This was also precisely the time when new genres and writing styles emerged1. In the late tenth century, many cities and towns were founded followed by settlements of merchants near these areas. The lords of these cities and towns also offered protection to these merchants. Since inhabitants of towns were largely dependent on the lords for mobility required for trade and continuous food supply from other territories, the groups of merchants and artisans filled this gap of transportation. According to Spielvogel, “since the townspeople were profiting from the growth of trade and sale of their products, they were willing to pay for the right to make their own laws and govern themselves2”. Therefore, towns began to gain their rights in exchange of certain amount of revenues paid to the King and lords. In addition to that, burghers also obtained charters of liberties from these lords which granted them “rights to bequeath and sell property, freedom from ,military obligation to the lord, written urban law and right to become a free person after residing a year and a day in a town3”. After gaining rights of governing themselves, another important part of development of medieval society was formation of Guilds. Guilds were formal business associations of merchants, artisans, bankers etc. These institutions were established earlier for religious and social purposes; “Merchant or craft guilds came slightly later. They arose when guilds dominated by merchants, like the Trinity Guild of Coventry, began to regulate conditions of manufacture and trade4.” Out of all the guilds, merchant and craft guilds are of immense importance as they formed the nucleus of new civil society. These organizations not only provided protection for
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