chapter  2
14 Pages

The Desired Stranger: Attraction and Expulsion in the Medieval City


The city is one of the most striking features of the medieval Netherlands. We can even quantify the number of inhabitants who lived in cities from the middle of the fi fteenth century.1 Most urbanised were the counties of Flanders and Holland that, not without coincidence, off ered a direct outlet to the sea and, thus, to international trade via the estuaries.2 Here, almost 40 per cent of the total population lived in a city. In principalities that were further removed from the coastline, such as Brabant, Hainaut, Namur, Utrecht and the prince-bishopric Liège, the fi gure was still 30 per cent. Here, too, the proximity of navigable waterways-think of the cities along the Meuse: Namur, Dinant, Huy, Liège, Maastricht-played an important role in the development of urban networks and landscapes. A third zone, which comprised Artois, Picardy, Friesland and Luxembourg, was more agricultural and had a relatively modest fi gure of 20 per cent city dwellers. Behind these fi gures hides a complex reality, because the urban landscape of the Netherlands already had a long history. The ‘red thread’ running through this history was the process of attraction and repulsion: who was wanted within the city walls and who was not?