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Visiting Grant Scholar (Winter 2006)
Festivals and their customs are valuable indicators of the characteristics of a society, as are the attitudes towards certain festive practices. However, societies differ not only in the nature of their customs, but also in the degree to which a custom is part of their culture. My aim is to study festival culture in late-medieval Northern Europe, focusing primarily on North-Germany, Scandinavia, Livonia, and the Low Countries. I mainly investigate the festivals celebrated by the city councils and by the guilds of merchants and artisans.
During my three-month scholarship at NIAS, I consulted source editions and secondary literature on medieval festivals in the Low Countries. This region is of special importance to my research because several customs (such as sword dance, civic jousts, and shooting at the popinjay) were recorded earliest in the cities of Flanders. Due to close economic and cultural connections among the Hanseatic cities of Northern Europe, the festival culture in these cities shared many common features. As I have been able to demonstrate in my writings, the great mobility and the network of contacts of the Hanseatic merchants facilitated the quick spread of festival customs. I am convinced that source material from Northern Europe can significantly contribute to our understanding of urban culture in medieval Europe. During my stay at NIAS, I completed an article and a conference paper, gave lectures in Amsterdam and Groningen, and attended a conference in Leiden. I am greatly indebted to NIAS for the excellent library services and particularly for the kind assistance of the fellow medievalists and the staff members.
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