The Network of the Urban Revolts in Northern France


Yong-Jin, PARK



1. Introduction


"The popular rebellions in the Middle ages, as the strikes in the present day, were frequent," said Marc Bloch. Especially it occurred frequently in the 14th and 15th century. Among them, the urban revolts in Northern France such as the Revolt of Etienne Marcel, Maillotins, and Cabochiens, are noteworthy. Etienne Marcel tried to control themonarchy through the Estate General, Maillotins protest the tax, and Cabochiens demand the reform of monarchy.

These revolts examined separately, and were considered as a series of revolts whose character was essentially similar. But considering that the revolts revealed the conflict among the social groups, and they triggered other urban revolts in Northern France, it is very meaningful to approach them from the social point of view. There were leaders, or leading groups, and followers in the revolts, and the revolts caused others. Did they feel solidarity before the revolts? Did they have any kind of the urban networks before? This study aims at elucidating the urban solidarity, internal and external, occurred on the process of the revolts. In the city the various forms of association, as guilds, confréries, and marriages, reinforced the solidarity among the members. Out of the city there existed the inter-urban networks of commerce.



2. The solidarity in the city


The leading groups and followers of the three above-mentioned revolts were the merchants and the craftsmen. So they already had the professional solidarity by way of the guilds. The hanse des marchands de l'eau played an important role in the revolts of Etienne Marcel in 1358. The hanse was the association of merchants who shared the commercial interests on the river Seine. On the conflict against Rouen, they elaborated more systematic organization in the 12th and 13th century. In the mid 13th century, Saint-Louis created the royal office, Prévot de Paris, responsible for the administration of Paris, and the bourgeois of Paris named their leader prévot des marchands responsible for the commerce. In the late 13th and early 14th century, two prévots contested for controlling over the tax on merchandise, and prévot des marchands, supported by the merchants, obtained the right to collect the tax. Then he became one of the authentic leaders in Paris.

So the hanse was the association that represented the Parisian bourgeoisie, and influenced their everyday lives. For example, the hanse, having the right of measuring the merchandise, was able to exercise the influence on wine sellers, grain dealers, drapers, and etc. Moreover the hanse was a superior guild that represented the major professional ones in Paris, and to which the minor guilds were subordinate in representing system and statute.

The professional guilds were not the only community that unified the bourgeois. There were also quartiers (quarter or district), combining the bourgeois geographically. The inhabitants in the same quartier formed a community that shared roads and wells, socialized in the tavern and celebrated the religious processions. A quartier was composed of more than fifty units (cinquantaine) and again each cinquantaine divided into about ten households (dizaine), whose leaders were quartenier, cinquantenier, and dizainier, respectively. The inhabitants communicated vertically through these organizations. Their internal solidarity was able to be easily transformed into turmoil or revolt.

The major forces of the revolt of Etienne Marcel in 1358 were the hanse followed by the bourgeois and inhabitants who offered the armed forces to the strike in January 1357 and the assassination of 2 generals in February1358. The leaders in the revolts of 1380s were the quarteniers, cinquanteniers and dizainiers. In 1413 the confréries were connected to two political sects, Bourgogne and Orleans. Therefore it is evident that the professional and geographical solidarity played an important role in instigating the revolts.

But further investigation will show that the solidarity was not simple and not remained unchanged. The haute bourgeoisie, who led the revolts of Etienne Marcel, did not participate in the revolts of 1380s. On the contrary, the haute bourgeoisie became the target of the revenge. According to the letters of remission, the leading groups of the revolts of 1382 were the mid-bourgeoisie. In the revolts of Cabochiens, neither the haute bourgeoisie nor mid-bourgeoisie was found. The letters of remission did not mention about the occupations of participants. So the only group joining the revolts was the lower bourgeoisie.

These changes imply the exclusive character of municipality and the reorganization of solidarity. A handful of families monopolized the municipal governments and combined each other since the late 13th century. The policing, that is, controlling over the statute was forced to execute rigidly. Moreover it became harder to rise up to a master. The haute bourgeois betrayed their vocation, i.e. the commerce, and began to offer their services to the kings.

Under these circumstances, the traditional guilds had been waned and replaced by conféries since the late 14th century. These conféries were largely organized according to the members' socio-economic status. Consequently the vertical communication networks gradually lost their significance.

In sum, up to the mid-14th century the urban inhabitants maintained their solidarity beyond the limit of the occupational and local boundary. Several revolts took place based on this solidarity. However, the haute bourgeois became more conservative and this change made the previous solidarity of urban inhabitants quite different, clearly shown as three revolts in the late 14th century. Conféries that would replace the guilds were just a mere set of smaller inhabitants with similar socio-economic status.



3. The networks among the cities

Urban revolts prevalent in the 14th century triggered a series of subsequent revolts and in so doing reinforced the urban networks. For example, in 1358 Etienne Marcel sent letters to several Northern cities, in that he requested them to join his revolt. As a positive response to his appeal, the urban rebels wore the Parisian bonnets. The fact that the Northerners wore the Parisian symbol proved to what extent the traditional commercial networks based on solidarity

influenced. It was the common interests based on commercial networks that solidified their cohesion as a political force.



It is no doubt that Paris played the key role in provoking a series of revolts. A major product of Paris was wool. High quality of wool products, imported by the haute Parisian bourgeois and consumed in palace, mainly came from Flanders, especially Ghent and Brussels. This fact explains why Marcel sent the letters to the cities in that region. There are other documents that indicate the regional connection between Paris and the cities in Flanders. For instance, Etienne Audry, an echevin in 1304 and 1305, married a woman from Antwerpen, and Le Flament, an influential family, received rente from Jean Legrand of Bruges.

The fact that the revolts in the 1380s were led by the mid-bourgeois in Paris indicates that the mid-bourgeois also maintained a certain degree of mutual interaction and solidarity with their counterparts in Northern France. The mid-bourgeois, import traders of mid-quality of wool, had commercial relation with Flanders as well as Normandy. According to the account of tax on textile in 1338, the cities such as Amiens in Picardy, Saint-Lô and Louvier in Normandy, were most frequently mentioned.

Their close relation was solidified by not only traditional commercial networks but also bigger problems, the crisis of the 14thcentury. Coping with the rise in salary and political challenge by the mid-bourgeois in municipalities, the haute bourgeois had to protect their interests and tried to monopolize the municipal offices. Especially the textile industry flourishing in the cities on the commercial network from Paris to Flanders made their social and economic structure similar. It is certain that the dominant classes in these cities were the drapers and the second classes had the same, or similar, occupations. These circumstances enabled the mid-bourgeois to play a more active role in the 1350s and 1380s. It was relatively easier for them to ally themselves owing to common problems resulted from similar social and commercial conditions. For example, the rebels in the 1380s in Paris and Amiens had the same occupation as cordonnier.

Therefore, urban revolts in the late medieval period were caused by the general crises throughout the kingdom as well as internal conflicts. Their presence indicated how the cities as a local center were evolved into a firm stronghold in the kingdom that became more and more centralized.



4. Conclusion


The urban revolts in Northern France of late medieval period revealed the internal and external solidarity. Regarding the internal one, the professional and regional solidarity that the bourgeois had shared before the revolts functioned as a prime mover of the upheavals. However, the solidarity did not prove long-lasting. The fact that bourgeois solidarity was gradually weakened appears to be evident considering that haute bourgeois who actively joined the 1358 revolts was virtually absent from the revolts in the 1380s, and the revolts of Cabochiens in 1413 were led by lower bourgeois.

Externally, professional and regional solidarity mattered as well. The spread of urban revolts into the extended areas was mainly due to the role of commercial networks in conveying the initial revolts, as in the case of commercial solidarity of the cities arrayed from Paris to Flanders. Increasing personal and material exchanges allowed the urban dwellers to share the economic interests and made their social structures similar. Through the networks, these cities became a regional unit. In this respect, the urban revolts in late medieval ages indicated a process of extending from a medieval geographical unit based on a city and its suburb into modern regional unit of larger areas that would be eventually evolvedinto a centralized kingdom. It was none other than the monarchy that made the most of this centralization process which dismantled traditional networks of solidarity.