To What Extent Did Environment Effect Urban Mentality in the Medieval Times?

Essay by selahHigh School, 12th gradeA-, November 2003

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To a large extent the growth of towns in the medieval times greatly altered the mentality of its inhabitants. The social environment created by the mass immigration to towns marks a sharp increase in economic and political awareness, as well as a transition towards a more cultured society, increasingly characterised by intellect rather than religion. However, much has been exaggerated regarding the changes that occurred: in many ways towns remained essentially feudal societies; 'artisans and labourers remained essentially peasants without land' and the peasants who created the bulk of the urban population retained their traditional values.

A typical layout for a large medieval town was based on the design of Jerusalem, the 'golden city'--surrounded by walls, it was divided into four quarters by four main streets, and had at the centre a square with the law court and pillory. This highlights two interesting aspects of the medieval town. Firstly, the walls, which surrounded most towns, are exemplary of the communal atmosphere that pervaded urban life.

There was a strong sense of kinship between citizens of the town, which no doubt empowered them in their struggle for certain privileges. The importance of the family also seems to have become more acute during this period. The security of the town, kinship of its citizens, and distrust of outsiders is demonstrated in Ypres, where any stranger arriving in the town had to leave their sword at the gate. The second point to be made is the importance of the central location of the law-court and pillory, which highlights the growing freedom of townsmen to govern themselves.

One of the most important effects of urbanisation on mentality was the growth of political awareness and economic independence. The density of population in the towns along with their economic importance meant that the monarchy was willing...