Sharp tongues. Contentious speech and urban politics in the late medieval Low Countries
This project offers an innovative perspective on medieval insurgency. An in-depth analysis of the 'illicit speech' of commoners will reveal whether the role of urban commoners in sustaining and spreading contentious beliefs was an essential one. Instead of considering protestors as violent rebels whose collective actions were harmful to political progress, as scholarship has often done in the past, this project sees citizens as creative voices calling for political change and 'good governance' from the authorities. The comparative analysis of the words shouted by both male and female insurgents and the petitions written by craftsmen of Ypres, Bruges, and Mons (Low Countries) during the fourteenth until the sixteenth century will inform us about popular ideas on urban government. Therefore this project proposes innovative research on the political ideas of commoners because we do not only want to study what these people were fighting against, but also the alternative that they proposed. In short, this project intends to denounce the prevailing master narrative of urban protest for its excessive reliance on violence, and its disregard of popular discourse as a category of analysis. In other words, this project will offer innovative tools and insights for scholars who need to listen to the contentious voices of medieval commoners, and to explain what they want to say.