French med. and early modern civic militias

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French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby Thearos » 21 Jun 2012 01:04

Reading a book on C17th warfare and the state: J. Cornette, Le roi de guerre (1995 I think ?). Early on, there is a remark on how profesionnalization of the army (+using aristocratic ethos + stoic ideology + changes in taxation etc) went along with the end of the French civic militias, with armed burghers.

On this forum, BigDummy talks a lot about central European (German) and Swiss militias. There's a thread right now about the Dutch civic guards, into the early modern period. But the rather off-hand remark by Cornette was the first I'd seen about French towns having their militias. I suppose they were active during the hundred-years' war (providing town levies to royal armies before Charles VII started up his standing armies of archers and cav.), and provided a lot of the muscle during the Wars of Religion.

Does anyone have more info on such French town militias ?
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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby Ariella Elema » 21 Jun 2012 01:52

A while back, BD and I dug up some information about militia duty in the regulations of the shearers' guild of Arras from 1236.

I don't know if it was typical for town guilds to also act as militias at the time. My totally unsubstantiated guess is that it was more common in the neighbourhood of Flanders and in the more independent towns.
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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby bigdummy » 21 Jun 2012 15:12

I don't know the situation in France very well but I can provide a rough outline of this as I currently understand it (maybe Fabrice or someone can chime in with more detail):

Town militias were important in France through most of the Medieval period, going way back, to the Carolingians at least. I don't know the complete history of the phenomenon there and my impression is that it was somewhat scattered by the late Medieval period, but it is clear that there were still militarily significant town militias in some French cities at late as the 15th Century.

So in France, from my loose understanding, the urban militias first show up with some prominence in the military record during the dynasty of Hugh Capet. Some of the stronger trading towns located in or near Flanders and along the Western coast of France had formidable militias, made up of men referred to as "centannae" in period records, who fought primarily as armored heavy-infantry and also as various types of archers (bow or crossbow). These played a significant role in the various wars of the Capetian dynasty.

Some French towns down in the south in Langedoc and (partly French) Provence and Savoy were also very well fortified and had militias of their own, who participated in the Albigensian Crusades on both sides (but mostly on defense against the Crusaders). The classic examples are Carcassone and Beziers

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Kropotkin says that several French towns won their charters the same way they did in Flanders and Germany, i.e. by force. But these French towns were not, so far as I know, truly independent like the Free Cities in Flanders or Central Europe. They were more like the mediatstadt, partially autonomous, but they still had their own militias. It also seems though that in France more cities were also the seats of powerful Aristocratic families and these did not have strong militias.

Gradually the autonomy of the independent towns was absorbed by the King and the regional princely families in France, but I don't think this was consolidated until Louis XIV.

Urban militias in other parts of Europe

I've already posted at some length in other threads about Switzerland and some of the German towns, as Thearos mentioned.

Urban militias were of course of immense importance in Burgundy and notably Flanders, proving their mettle famously at the Battle of Golden Spurs in 1302 where the military fraternities of the weavers guilds of Ghent and Ypres smashed the flower of French Chivalry. The very strong Flemish militias established the political and economic landscape of that region during the rest of the Middle Ages (until they were absorbed by the Holy Roman Empire through marriage in 1500 and then taken over by Spain through inheritance, leading ultimately to the wars of the Dutch Revolt in the 1550s.)

They were also important in Catalonia and in the Basque region in Spain.

And in Lombardy and Tuscany, the famous independence of Northern Italy sprang from the series of major victories by the Lombard League against the Holy Roman Emperor and regional Italian Dukes.

The Italians however, gradually ended participation in their own militias, coming to rely too much on mercenaries, leading to the eventual takeover of some glorious Italian towns by Signoria, usually mercenary leaders (like the Visconti and then the Sforzas in Milan). The leader of the militia in Italian towns was called capitano del popolo.

Central Europe - Hungary, Transylvania, Bohemia, Livonia, Pomerania and Prussia were all largely run by independent cities and urban militias.

In Russia towns like Veliky Novgorod, Pskov, and Tver were essentially independent city-States with powerful town militias, though most of the other Rus towns were completely subjugated by the Mongols and /or came under rule of russian Princes (as in Moscow) who were Mongol vassals.

There were also significant urban militias in at least some towns in England; Payson Muller has dug up some really interesting stuff on the city of York recently.

Relationship between urban militias and peasants

And then there is the whole separate issue of strong rural militias, which did also exist in several regions... but that is for another discussion.

In some cases the purpose of urban militia were as much to repress the local peasants who were of a different religious or ethnic group, as to defend against foreign (usually Turk or Mongol) invaders. For example the Unio Trium Nationum in eastern Transylvania, made up of a coalition of feudal Lords, Saxon urban militias, and Székely tribesmen, suppressed the Romanian Vlach people; in addition to fending off the Ottomans. The Baltic Noble Corporations of Livonia which were based largely around the militias of the German towns against the local Estonians (as well as the Mongols).

By contrast, in Northern Germany you had the opposite situation in which the Hanse towns of Hamburg, Lubeck and Bremen made alliances with strong militias of local peasants (like the Dithmarschen) to help fend off powerful Princes such as the King of Denmark and the Archbishop of Bremen. In Italy, the city of Bologna passed an amazing special law called the Liber Paradisus to buy the contracts and free all the serfs and slaves in their district. They spent 50,000 lb of silver to do this, apparently this was in part done to permanently weaken the hostile feudal lords surrounding them. In other places like the Swiss Confederation, Bohemia, and Sweden there were at least grudging military and political alliances between rural peasants and the town militias.

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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby bigdummy » 21 Jun 2012 16:28

Obviously we need to do a great deal more work on this subject...

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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby Lyceum » 21 Jun 2012 21:23

Have you looked at the fire fighting guilds in the late Roman empire btw? They were often urban militiae if I recall correctly, which I probably don't.
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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby admin » 22 Jun 2012 10:40

In Anglo-Saxon England (and also Carolingian France, I believe) fortified towns (burhs) had to provide a number of men for defence relative to the length of the defensive walls. I can't remember the proportion, but it was something like one man for every 20 feet of defence (at this date, usually an earth rampart and ditch, with a wooden palisade on the top). Equally, defensive armies (the fyrd) were raised on the principle that every 5 hides of land (1 hide was the agricultural area that could support one extended family/household) had to provide one fighting man and his equipment (the equipment being specified, usually a mail shirt, helmet, spear, shield and knife). In Carolingian France I believe they had a similar system for raising 'knights'.
I think that the arrangements for later town militias were essentially based on this system, though I don't know how this changed/morphed in the 11th-13th centuries. Also, there seems to be a critical difference between town militias and emergency levied armies, but maybe the systems of recruitment were related?
Incidentally, the French town militias were important during the Hundred Years War - they were the primary defence against the chevauchee raids that both sides used against each other's lands. In the lead up to Crecy, for example, you see the English army attacking a number of towns and being opposed by town militias (usually unsuccessfully, but not always). From reading 'The Road to Crecy' and suchlike, it seems that these town militias were primarily made of crossbowmen, with some men-at-arms (local gentry?) in support.
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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby Piermarco » 22 Jun 2012 18:58

This book reproduces some statutes of societates armorum (fencing guilds/militias) from Bologna in the 13th Century (in Latin).

http://archive.org/stream/statutidelles ... 5/mode/2up

The intro says that in Northern Italy these first arose at the end of the 12th Century, and by the 13th Century Bologna alone had 24 of them.
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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby bigdummy » 22 Jun 2012 21:24

On that - see the link upthread about the Lombard League.


In Central Europe and Flanders in the 12th and 13th Centuries the town folks themselves were heavily armed and typically fought wars against the archbishop or bishop, (or more rarely the secular prince*) who owned the land. For example the City of Cologne captured their own archbishop in the Battle of Worringen in 1288, and after that the archbishop wasn't allowed back inside the town gates; Strasbourg similarly defeated their own bishop won their independence in the Battle of Oberhausbergen in 1266.

The militia were made up of the different factions in the town. Those who fought mounted were usually members of the town council and / or 'patricians', the wealthy merchant elite of the town, who formed the so called 'constafler' societies. In Flanders and most of Germany these people were distinct from aristocrats. The heavy infantry and marksmen or archers, who made up the bulk of the force, were derived from the craft Guilds. Some of the guild Masters were also constafler and fought as heavy cavalry. For example according to the Osprey Military book German Medieval Armies, the city of Strasbourg in 1363 fielded 81 lances from among the merchant ‘patricians’, 21 from the builds, 5 from the boatmen, 4 from the storekeepers, and 4 from the wine merchants, for a total of 115 lances (which means about 400- 500 cavalry in total, since each lance is 3-5 horsemen).

The walls were necessary for commerce (as protection from raids) but the walls themselves created a certain power of their own. It's kind of similar to a castle, it may be assigned to someone to hold as a vassal (castelan) on behalf of someone else, but if it's the strong castle they will often become independent and can switch allegiences. Towns were like this but more so because unlike the feudal lords, most of the burghers wealth was liquid, i.e. in the form of money or commodities, instead of tied up in land. So they could much more quickly hire mercenaries, especially when several towns acted together.

Though the towns were small (most of the significant were in the neighborhood of 15,000 -20,000 people) the legal basis of the commune (which defined the town) was an oath of mutual self-defense. 15,000 people was bigger than most armies in the Middle Ages. Though in practice it seems the militias of such towns would boil down to more like around 100- 300 cavalry and 1,000 - 2,000 infantry. This is mainly because few can be spared from the economic activity of the town, but in a real emergency the entire active adult male population (and sometimes women too) will fight.

By the end of the 14th Century the guilds had taken over some of the towns, this happened in 1332 in Strasbourg, in 1345 in Liège in Flanders (they defeated their Prince-Bishop Engelbert III de la Marck and established a guild government), and in 1396 in Cologne. This reduced the emphasis on the cavalry and increased the importance of infantry. In Frankfurt and Nuremberg by contrast, the guilds were defeated and the patricians took over. In both cases though the relative administrations realized they still needed each other to some extent, so for example Nuremberg let the messerschmidts start doing their sword dance again (of which Roger Norling has some great period artwork) and Strasbourg, having evicted their patricians in 1419, granted 5 seats to the patricians (out of 13) in 1455 into the defensive council (council of 13) in order to restore heavy cavalry and the perceived necessary leadership role of patricians in the militias.

There were also rural militias but these only existed in any effective form where the peasants were free. Serf - levies made a very poor fighting force. Since villages were rarely so effectively fortified as towns, the only areas where peasants remained free tended to be in inaccessible terrain: mountains (i.e. the Alps, the Pyrennes) marshes (like in northern Saxony and Frisia) heavy forests (like in Sweden, Bohemia and parts of Swabia and Thuringia) and in the hills (Polish Jura, Carpathians).

BD


* I think the reason so many Medieval towns grew up around bishoprics rather than princely castles is that the former were often the site of Cistercian abbeys which built water mills and / or windmills in the 11th - 12th Centuries, which attracted a large amount of trade.
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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby bigdummy » 22 Jun 2012 21:30

Piermarco wrote:This book reproduces some statutes of societates armorum (fencing guilds/militias) from Bologna in the 13th Century (in Latin).

http://archive.org/stream/statutidelles ... 5/mode/2up

The intro says that in Northern Italy these first arose at the end of the 12th Century, and by the 13th Century Bologna alone had 24 of them.


Piermarco, i don't suppose there is any chance you could translate some of this into English for us?

Also do you know any thing about the Liber Paradisus in Bologna?

BD
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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby bigdummy » 22 Jun 2012 21:36

It's interesting to note that the oaths sworn during mobilization (of which several have apparently been preserved, though I haven't been able to find any primary sources for this yet) were evidently often very restrictive of the availability of the town militias- they often insisted on staying within a certain distance of the town or even being back behind town walls before nightfall. But in spite of that they could apparently be quite effective. That Osprey military book says burgher militias destroyed the castles of over 100 robber-barons in the last 25 years of the 14th Century alone.

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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby Piermarco » 23 Jun 2012 00:25

bigdummy wrote:
Piermarco wrote:This book reproduces some statutes of societates armorum (fencing guilds/militias) from Bologna in the 13th Century (in Latin).

http://archive.org/stream/statutidelles ... 5/mode/2up

The intro says that in Northern Italy these first arose at the end of the 12th Century, and by the 13th Century Bologna alone had 24 of them.


Piermarco, i don't supposed there is any chance you could translate some of this into English for us?

Also do you know any thing about the Liber Paradisus in Bologna?

BD


I could do the Italian introduction, but not really the statutes themselves, I'd be quite intrigued to know more about them myself.
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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby bigdummy » 23 Jun 2012 03:14

I would be really interested in the introduction, or a summary of it.

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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby bigdummy » 24 Jun 2012 00:38

Tangentally related, French Crusader militia founded for the Albigensian Crusade.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militia_of ... sus_Christ

Interestingly, this is also how the Sword Brothers got started in the Baltic (i.e. as a militia) they are repeatedly referred to as a militia in Henry of Livonia's chronicle.

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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby Ariella Elema » 25 Jun 2012 23:48

Piermarco wrote:This book reproduces some statutes of societates armorum (fencing guilds/militias) from Bologna in the 13th Century (in Latin).

http://archive.org/stream/statutidelles ... 5/mode/2up

The intro says that in Northern Italy these first arose at the end of the 12th Century, and by the 13th Century Bologna alone had 24 of them.


This is really cool! Thanks for the link.

I just read through the first set of statutes. What struck me is how little it has to say about weapons or their use. It's a set of rules for a fairly typical medieval confraternity. They mostly seem to be interested in how the organization will be run, and in the usual confraternal activities: mutual aid, charity, and mediating business disputes between members of the group. I'll take a look at more of the book when I get a moment.
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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby bigdummy » 26 Jun 2012 00:03

Any translations either of you could provide would be very welcome for the rest of us illiterates!

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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby Piermarco » 26 Jun 2012 20:05

bigdummy wrote:I would be really interested in the introduction, or a summary of it.

BD



Very brief summary:

It says that the books is about the militias that formed the core of the cities' infantry. Most historians date their rise to about 1174 when the Lombard League was founded. There were 24 of these corporations by around the middle of the 13th century in Bologna (where all of these statutes come from), with names like the lions, the dolphins, the griffons.

These 24 where organised geographically, with 5 societies for each quarter of the city, plus one for men from Lombardy, and another for Tuscans, plus the "Stars" which probably contained the Lombards and Tuscans that didn't belong to the other groups. In addition to this the "beccai" (butchers and possibly related trades like fishmongers and tavernkeepers) formed their own separate group.

The purpose of these groups appeared to be both to quell civil unrest and for external defences, in which they lined up under their respective standards. Although this was their official purpose, they also serves as mutual aid societies to protect against the aggression of the ruling classes, and to aid members in times of poverty, bury the dead, etc. There was also a religious element with members attending masses together and so on.

Their organisation was based on craft guilds, and they were typically governed by 4 or 8 members with an attendant council, and where able to enact bans and fines on their members. They also had a financial officer/debt collector (for want of a better term), a notary and a "sindacato" (something like an internal auditor).

Important decisions were made by a general assembly however, that decided on the statutes, expenses over a certain amount, new members, expelling members ad electing officials.

It seems nobles were also initially admitted, but where excluded together with peasants in 1270, and that these militias were involved in the faction wars of 1274 that saw the expulsion of the Lambertazzi family.
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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby bigdummy » 26 Jun 2012 21:28

Fascinating, this ties in very closely with my research on the German, Czech and Polish towns. And also seems to match the Flemish guild regulations Ariella and I found. It also matches everything that Kropotkin says in "Mutual Aid"

I really need to translate this book, it seems...

Does it have a list of any other cities which had these militias besides Bologna?

Thank you very much for posting.

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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby Piermarco » 26 Jun 2012 22:40

bigdummy wrote:Does it have a list of any other cities which had these militias besides Bologna?



Mentions Lombardy right at the beginning but nowhere else specifically.

Although it's speculation, I can't help wondering what connection these militias had to the later documented Bolognese tradition.

Interesting that they seem firmly middle-class, and a number of later fencing masters (at least the ones who wrote treatises) seem associated with some of the more prestigious crafts: Altoni seems to have been a goldsmith, Marozzo seemed to have some connection to the silk industry, there is a MS in the Vatican by the "goldsmith of Cremona".
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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby bigdummy » 26 Jun 2012 23:10

Yes and Meyer was a member of the messerschmidt guild.

It does indeed beg the question, I think, as to whether there is a link to that later Bolognese tradition as you noted, though that is of course in a much later period.

We also see similar patterns in the Baltic where I've done some research. The town gates of Krakow, for example, were maintained by the various guilds. The main gate, St. Florians gate, is still well known to be linked to the ancient furriers guild.

Image

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Florian%27s_Gate

I have a late 19th Century book on the history of Krakow which states the following

http://books.google.com/books?id=XJk0AQ ... nd&f=false

Page 48-53

At religious processions, like that on Corpus Christi Day, all craft guilds displayed extraordinary splendour; the members appeared corporately, in holiday clothes, and armed. The seniors, with badges and maces, marched ahead, followed by the brethren of the guild, in closed ranks, with ensigns spread and swords drawn. [snip]

There was a a great parade of the craft guilds on the occasion of the coronation of a king, or a marriage in the royal family, or the triumphant entry of some victorious general. The guilds, marching in arms, gave quite the appearance of a well equipped body of troops ready for fight- thus reminding the spectators of the important pat they had played in the past in defending the city from enemies*. For in those times they were the proper defenders of the town walls, providing the bastions with ammunition and implements of war; they all belonged to the rifle company and practiced shooting at the municipal range. The fortified walls of the town had gates, which are mentioned by name in the very oldest book of records: St. Florian's Gate, the Slawkow Gate, St Stepehn's, the Shoemakers, the Vistula, and St. Nicholas' or the Butchers Gate; at a later time we also hear of New Gate and Castle Gate. [Snip]

...those of Cracow still possess considerable remains, being, in fact, the most interesting part of the whole, viz. the barbican to the north of St. Florian's Gate, the gate itself and the towers of the Lace-makers, the Joiners, and the Carpenters, with their connecting wall, all of these date from the fifteenth century..[snip]

Of the towers, the first one, at the outlet of Hospital Street to the east, is perhaps the richest and most graceful. It belonged to the lace-makers guild. [snip]

The wall on the other side of St. Florian's Gate, towards the Joiner's Gate, was built on a different system, having an open gangway on the inside with numerous loopholes and pinnacles, which were all walled up in later times.


So it seems like in Krakow, the Lace-makers, the Furriers, the Joiners, the Carpenters, and the Butchers all controlled, and apparently built the different key elements of the towns fortifications. There is a question as to whether they had the right to collect tolls through these gates, which might have helped them pay for their upkeep (and a bit more no doubt) though I don't have direct evidence of that yet.

And this is of course a secondary source.

i also have another Polish military history / archeological source directly quoting records from guild meetings in the 1430's where they purchased handguns (primitive arqubueses) and flails for the Krakow town-militia after an encounter with Hussite heretics.

And of course we have the regulations of the Shearers of Arras, which corresponds closely to the overall image portrayed by Henri Pirenne in his various histories of Belgium. Matt Galas also said that the St. Michels Guild in Bruges was made up of craft artisans, and we know that the st. Michels guild and equivalents were associated with town defense in Bruges, Ghent, Ypres and other towns.

So there is some interesting data starting to emerge, it's far too early to draw more than a few conclusions (i.e. some craft guilds seem to have had a link to town defense, and some craft guilds may have had a link to some kind of fencing societies), but very broadly we could suggest the possibility perhaps, that the old idea we used to have in fencing circles that these European fighting systems came from 'Knights' and then were later aped or imitated by middle class burghers in some decadent revival... it may in fact be the reverse. The more sophisticated fencing systems which we know from the manuals, or at least some of them, could have in fact arisen from the artisan class itself, which we do know was quite warlike, just as so many of the weapons and other accoutrement of warfare also did, from early firearms to armor to the swords themselves.

What makes your find so remarkable Piermarco is that it seems to show another direct link of craft guilds with something which sounds a bit like a fencing guild.

BD
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Re: French med. and early modern civic militias

Postby bigdummy » 26 Jun 2012 23:15

I think all of this makes more sense when you realize how war-like the towns actually were. As I'm sure Piermarco is well aware, the Lombard league defeated the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa at the Battle of Legnano in 1187, and again defeated Frederick II at Parma in 1249. A lot of people don't know that Krakow defeated a Mongol invasion in 1287, like most Mongol defeats there is precious little online about it available in English but they have a local holiday to celebrate the victory. They also initiated the buildlng of St. Mary's church at this time, and probably a lot of those towers and town gates.

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