Call for papers : Writing history and urban membership in Europe and the Islamic worlds, from the 13th to the 18th century

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Call for papers
Conference: Writing history and urban membership in Europe and the Islamic worlds, from the
13th to the 18th century.
17-18 October 2019


This conference aims to understand the whole range of possible socializing processes of writing about the past in the cities of medieval and modern societies, both in Europe and in the Islamic worlds. Writing history will be considered in an extended sense: chronicles, histories of cities, sanctuaries or monuments, notations in city or community registers, Italian or German family books, individual diaries, genealogies, memoirs, permanent or ephemeral inscriptions on monuments ‒ in short: anything fixing a narrative of the past insofar as it has engaged any relationship to the city. Could also be included the archival and collection practices that may accompany the production of writings about the past.

During the conference, we would expect to combine in the analysis the officially recognized stories and any other writing in which historical narratives can be founded ‒ but which do not necessarily present themselves as such. In these writings, particular attention will be paid to the modalities of defining the activity of writing history, its legitimizing procedures, and the possible mobilization, whether implicit or explicit, of other historical works. We expect that a wide range of writings considered may allow to observe the circulation of the texts, references and models within the urban space, without presupposing that this circulation should be reduced to the dissemination of scholar practices to other parts of the society.

For the past forty years, thanks to the founding proposals of Roger Chartier and Armando Petrucci, historians have highlighted how since the Middle Ages urban societies have been shaped by a written culture that imprinted on both political organization and urban economic, social and cultural life. This written culture, related to trade exchanges, to the development of power devices that generate administrations, and to a strong ecclesiastical framework, which implied, among other things, the development of educational offer, gave the opportunity to substantial though minority parts of the urban population ‒ notables first and then upper layers of the craft industry ‒ to be taught how to read and write and master the codes that allowed them to consider the production of narratives about the past. This written culture cannot be reduced to what historians are now used to calling "pragmatic writings" ‒ management writings, notarial acts ‒ to differentiate them from scholarly culture. Although Muslim cities of medieval or modern times hadn't their own institutions and though literacy was on the long term less developed than in Europe, the Muslim world may have experienced similar processes.

The purpose of this conference is therefore to consider the activity of writing history as a resource mobilized by individuals, communities and institutions along the social life of cities. We expect to be able to gather as much knowledge as possible about the sociology of writers, the issues that govern their writings, the ‒ social or scriptural ‒ places in which narratives are recorded in a particular way ‒ even, sometimes, in the registers of solicitors. Our aim is to understand the converse modalities leading to the making of the urban and social identities of these scriptors, and to assess the place held in urban dynamics by this activity of writing history. We will also consider the links between history as it is written in the city and other ‒ monastic, aristocratic, curial ‒ places of historiography.


This conference is organized by the CHISCO of Nanterre and the research team: Power, Knowledge and Society of the University of Paris 8. It is part of a call for projects from the labex Les Passés dans le présent.

Organization committee:

  • Anne Bonzon
  • Boris Bove
  • Franck Collard
  • Emmanuelle Tixier du Mesnil
  • Caroline Galland
  • Benjamin Lellouch
  • Nicolas Schapira


Authors are invited to submit their propositions before the 15th of February 2019.

See also