The influence of the crisis on the changes in the urban environment of the late middle ages

Mateusz Goliński
Original title: Kryzys a przemiany środowiska miejskiego w późnym średniowieczu
Śląski Kwartalnik Historyczny Sobótka 2010

Simultaneously with the time of 14th century economic crisis and demographic catastrophe in the West Europe and later the deep rebuilding of its development model, the East-Central Europe – as it is generally considered – experienced a great and simple increasing of its capability. Scientists noticed, however, some manifestations of crisis as not recognized enough elements of local recession which were reflections of the great depression. First of all a wave of social disturbances in Hanza cities and in Bohemia, the extent of heresy and criticism of the Church that led to the Hussite revolution, lasting one hundred years fall in the mining of ore (14th–15th centuries) and the presumable stagnation of Polish rural economy in 15th century were mentioned. The author of this cursory analysis concentrated on the strength and results of particular factors, regarded as harbingers of the breakthrough, that influenced Wrocław and its surroundings. Some issues, with possible interpretation, are discussed: inefficiency of public life, crisis of morality (conscience), social disturbances, collapse of the handicraft production, stagnation in construction, demographic stagnation, collapse of agriculture production and crisis in mining. The conclusions following from the interpretation of at least part of the discussed problems support a rational vision of crisis as a breakthrough leading automatically to modernization, replacing not effective solutions by, maybe not ‘better’ or objectively more forceful, solutions adequate to current abilities. A role of a big and internally differentiated city in the time of crisis is still disputable: to what extent it caused the troubles and or was their victim, and to what extent it helped the region to fight against the recession. That is the difference between Wrocław and other towns in the province which are presented by historians as obvious victims of the 15th century political breakthrough in the Kingdom of Bohemia.

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