The economic and political roles of towns in the Nordic late Middle Ages – with Lübeck as the major hub in an extensive network – have long been recognized and studied: be it in histories of nations, the Hanse, or individual towns. In such accounts, however, the regional web of urban culture is not always given its due. And as most manifestations of urban culture were anchored in the social and business corporations generally designated as guilds, these provide the natural point of departure for an attempt to appreciate this dynamic segment of northern Europe’s cultural history.
In this collection, leading specialists in Nordic urban history deal with towns from the whole region, as distant and different from one another as Tallinn, Bergen, Lübeck, Oslo, and Stockholm, among others. Contributions discuss central and significant topics such as means and routes of communication, social (including national) identities, pageantry and feasting, and the religious role of guilds. The Introduction seeks to locate these studies, individually and collectively, in relation to recent developments in the exploration of a late-medieval field whose potential is increasingly appreciated.