Friends, Enemies, Patrons

Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The fraught character of premodern social life arose because little, if anything, came to you as your due, as certain, or just a matter of filing the appropriate papers and awaiting the check or the acclaim. People had no social rights. At every moment, the pursuit of legal claims, the establishment of power, and the protection of property was a social business requiring the support of others. Individual status was not certain, nor did a bureaucratic state apparatus neutrally process it. There was no such state, nor any other mechanism to separate the great mass of people from each other. You needed friends; you made enemies; and together these relations helped to define who you were as a social atom in the molecular structure of the town.Your connections to others and interventions on behalf of them were more important than we can easily imagine. We have already seen how complex medieval urban social interactions were.The records of arbitration and dispute settlement that we examine in chapters 3 and 4 start to make clear the extent to which people acted as each other’s brokers and abettors. We have seen how the manifold interests of individuals had to be balanced. Who you were in town was determined and reflected by your position in the structures of support that encapsulated your social actions. Nevertheless, certain eyes had a larger share in the creation of any social self. Your own perception was crucial, but also influential were those who watch you and act alongside you most often. Inevitably, the perceptions of the powerful would colonize you and you could rise and fall on their judgment.Whereas if they never saw you, you had almost no sociopolitical existence at all. To be a social being and a political animal was to be a member and a meaning to small groups of judges.


Social Network Social Network Analysis Dispute Settlement Outer Circle Social Business 
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© David Gary Shaw 2005

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