Local symposium on the Middle Ages

As you may be aware, the Karwansaray office is located in Zutphen, not far from Arnhem (which you may recall was the site of Operation Market Garden). Zutphen is a small city that dates back to the Middle Ages. Evidence from that era is to be found everywhere in the city, from the remains of its city-walls to its churches. 

It’s fitting therefore that Zutphen will be the venue of a small symposium on the High Middle Ages (ca. AD 1200 to 1500). Hans Busio, one of the organizers, sent me an email to bring the symposium to the attention of our readers. For the benefit of those who don’t read Dutch (which is most of you!), I will provide a brief English summary of the symposium description here. 

The High Middle Ages was a period of growing wealth and developing economic networks. Zutphen was part of the Hanseatic League, a commercial alliance between mercantile guilds that increased the wealth and power of cities in Northwestern Europe. But this wealth came at a cost. The cities also suffered from unrest and pollution, and they were breeding places for disease. Local leaders therefore sought to invest in safety measures, health care, and hygiene. 

Cities were also centres of learning and what might be termed personal development. Literacy was on the rise in this period, and people had a better sense of their own place in the world. Cities grew in power and politics grew more complex, resulting, among other things, in larger-scale military conflicts. But this was also an age in which people sought to expand their horizons. They went on pilgrimages, for example, both for spiritual purposes and possibly also out of curiosity. 

The symposium is organized in the St Walpurga Church in Zutphen on 3 June of this year. Diana Spiekhout (Groningen) will talk about castles in the region that date between AD 1050 and 1450. The nearby city of Deventer is the subject of a talk by Janna Coomans (Amsterdam). Jerem van Duijl (Leiden) talks about trade with the Baltic. Jeroen Benders (Groningen) focuses on a particular family of merchants. Finally, Cora Zwart (Groningen) discusses religion, while Marianna Ritsema (Amsterdam) deals with medieval tourism. 

The full programme is available on the official website. If you’re in the Netherlands or know you will be around on 3 June, you can also register for a fee.

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