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Urban Governance and Civic Participation in Words and Stone Lecture Series

Fall term 2021, Thursdays 17:30–19:00

The question whether the governance and autonomy of medieval cities and the participation of their citizens in managing communal affairs may be regarded a laboratory of democracy or yet another form of the rule of the privileged has re-emerged with new answers in recent scholarship. Besides urban and legal historians and scholars of political thought, research in art history, literacy, spatial studies, and global history have provided a set of new answers. Governing bodies and institutions, with varying degree of participation by inhabitants of different social and legal standing have been examined, as well as the shaping of the physical environment, including its open spaces, buildings and ornaments.

The talks of renowned invited experts in this online lecture series will seek the origins of civic participation in political thought and explore its forms of expression in written and visual media from Late Antiquity to the seventeenth century. The lectures will also prepare the ground for a Summer University Course entitled Urban Governance and Civic Participation in Words and Stone to be organized by the Open Society University Network (OSUN) in July 2022. 

While the OSUN course aims to examine the notion of civic participation through a critical lens in medieval and Early Modern Central Europe, the lecture series, co-organized by the Democracy in History Workgroup of the CEU Democracy Institute, the Department of Medieval Studies at CEU, the Department of History of Art at Birkbeck, University of London, and the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Erfurt, will cover the same topic in a longer historical perspective and a broader geographical spectrum. The series is convened by Zoe Opacic (Birkbeck), Susanne Rau (Erfurt), and Katalin Szende (CEU DI).

Every lecture in the series is open to the public. Participation is possible for individual dates as well as for the entire lecture series. If you attend the entire lecture and write an essay (8-10 pages), you can get a certificate of attendance.

CEU students can take the online lecture series as an elective course by registering for MEDS6254: Urban Governance and Civic Participation in Words and Stone (offered by the Department of Medieval Studies, cross-listed with the History Department). Please visit the CEU Course Hub and the E-learning site for further information on course requirements, readings and assessment.

Students from other universities: The approval of credits can be negotiated with the respective head of your study programs at your home university.

Registration is required to attend each lecture. More information on how to register is available upon clicking on the title of the lectures below.



  1. 09/30/2021: Maarten Prak (University of Utrecht): Citizenship in Premodern Europe and Asia
  2. 07/10/2021: Caroline Goodson (University of Cambridge): Mediterranean Cities in the Early Middle Ages
  3. 14/10/2021: Fabrizio Nevola (University of Exeter): Writing on Walls in Early Modern Italy
  4. 21/10/2021: Beat Kumin (University of Warwick): Rural Subjects? Governance, Participation and Self-Representation in Imperial Villages
  5. 28/10/2021: Achim Timmermann (University of Michigan): Calvary Is Everywhere: Capital Punishment and the Civic Imagination
  6. 04/11/2021: Andreas Lehnertz (Hebrew University, Jerusalem): Seals and Oath-Taking: Jewish Civic Participation in the Medieval Holy Roman Empire
  7. 11/11/2021: Vanessa Harding (Birkbeck, University of London): Guilds, Fraternities and Civic Life in London, 1300-1700
  8. 18/11/2021: Martin Scheutz (University of Vienna): Armed Citizens in Town. Control of Weapons and Armories
  9. 25/11/2021: Miri Rubin (Queen Mary, University of London): How Strange Were the Strangers of Medieval Cities? [TBC] 
  10. 02/12/2021: Sara Keller – Susanne Rau (University of Erfurt): Urban Governance in South Asian Cities
  11. 09/12/2021: Grigor Boykov (Austrian Academy of Sciences): When “The Land of Filibe Became Egypt and Meriç Turned Into Nile”: Governance, Architectural Patronage, and Water Management of the Mid-Fifteenth-Century Plovdiv
  12. 16/12/2021: Ferenc Horcher (University of Public Service, Budapest): The Political Ideology of the Renaissance and Early Modern City - From Bruni to Althusius