Book Series Early European Research, vol. 1

Sociability and its Discontents

Civil Society, Social Capital, and their Alternatives in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Nicholas Eckstein, Nicholas Terpstra (eds)

  • Pages: 326 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:3 b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2010

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-52473-3
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-53760-3
  • E-book
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Sociability and its Discontents offers a series of highly original case-studies showing the workings of late medieval and early modern European society from new and often unexpected angles.


"This is an excellent collection of essays. Through its critique and nuancing of Putnam's historical analysis of sociability, social capital and civil society, it adds to an important modern social policy debate." (Natalie Tomas, in Parergon 27.2, 2010, p. 222)



This volume advances our knowledge of continuing trends over the longue durée of European history. It also exposes many differences separating contemporaries from their medieval and early modern ancestors. In putting the concept of social capital to the test, the authors also expose the strengths, weaknesses, and limits of the ‘Putnam thesis’. The essays address fourteenth-century English fears of old-age neglect; childhood, friendship, scandal, and rivalry in Renaissance Florence; rebellion in an Italian village; social capital and seigneurial power in southern and north-central Italy; guild violence in Calvinist Ghent; civil society in early-modern Bologna, Naples and the Papal State; gender in High Renaissance Rome; and critical analyses of the transition from religious to secular sensibilities that scholars (following Jürgen Habermas) have identified in eighteenth-century Europe. In each case, the topic is considered in relation to recent theories of ‘social capital’: the informal, intangible bonds of trust upon which, social scientist Robert Putnam argues, every human community depends. The result is a series of highly original case-studies which reveal the workings of late medieval and early modern European society from new and often unexpected angles.


List of Illustrations

Sociability and its Discontents — NICHOLAS TERPSTRA AND NICHOLAS A. ECKSTEIN

I. Negotiating Civil and Social Disorder

Communal Thought, Communal Words, and Communal Rites in a Sixteenth-Century Village Rebellion — THOMAS COHEN

Social and Legal Capital in Vendetta: A Fifteenth-Century Florentine Feud in and out of Court — THOMAS KUEHN

Jousting Alone: Scandal as Social Capital in Renaissance Florence — NERIDA NEWBIGIN

Speaking Up for the Aged: Thomas Hoccleve and The Regiment of Princes — ANNE M. SCOTT

II. Networks in Operation

Pittori, amici e vicini: The Formal and Informal Bonds of Community amongst Florentine Artists — NICHOLAS A. ECKSTEIN

Paolo Uccello and the Confraternity of Saint Peter Martyr: Themes of Reciprocal Obligation in Life and Art — HUGH HUDSON

To Trust Is Good, but Not to Trust Is Better: An Aristocratic Woman in Search of Social Capital in Seventeenth-Century Rome — CAROLINE CASTIGLIONE

III. Unexpected Civility

Signorial Power in Aragonese Southern Italy — DAVID ABULAFIA

Solidarity in Spanish Naples: Fede Pubblica and Fede Privata Revisited — JOHN A. MARINO

In Praise of Refeudalization: Princes and Feudataries in North-Central Italy from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century — GREGORY HANLON

The Putnam Thesis and Problems of the Early Modern Transition Period — CHRISTOPHER F. BLACK

IV. Adaptations and Reconsiderations

Voluntary Associations Reconsidered: Compagnie and Arti in Florentine Politics — MARK JURDJEVIC

A Breakdown of Civic Community? Civic Traditions, Voluntary Associations and the Ghent Calvinist Regime (1577–84) — ANNE-LAURE VAN BRUAENE

‘Republics by Contract’: Civil Society in the Papal State — NICHOLAS TERPSTRA

From Religious to Secular Sociability: Confraternities and Freemasonry in Eighteenth-Century Paris — DAVID GARRIOCH