Commercialisation and Urbanisation on the Periphery of Medieval Europe

The aim of this project is to present a new take on what has often been a mostly theoretically-driven discussion on the role of towns in the commercialisation of medieval society. The research on commercialisation as a driver of fundamental social change is inspired by recent research into medieval England, but the working field is primarily Scandinavia. The subject will be approached by looking at a large body of material that has been unearthed in the last couple of years but not considered comprehensively in the discussion, namely coins. A wide period, from 1000–1450, CE and a large geographical area, Scandinavia, have been chosen, so that underlying trends are easier to spot at a time when the paucity of written sources and the highly varying precision of archaeological material conspire against the historian wishing to analyse societal changes on a more detailed level. To offset the negative impacts this may have in driving our questions towards things that only studies of the “longue durée” may answer, a couple of case studies will be conducted on some hand-picked towns.

These case studies will attempt to integrate archaeobotanical and artefactual research with the potential to reveal agricultural changes resulting from increased commercialisation and urbanisation with studies of the coin material where the main object is to chart the spread of coins through new layers of society on a more High-Definition scale, through stratigraphic analysis, than has previously been done.

The macro study will consist of correlating the emergence of medieval towns with the numismatic material, hoping to reveal much more about what the urbanisation and commercialisation process actually was, who were able to partake in it, and when it actually occurred. The goal is to test the numismatic material up against other material – archaeological and written – and to use this to frame new, fruitful questions on the nature of urbanisation and commercialisation.

PI: PhD student Olav E. Gundersen