Coomans, J., & Hermenault, L. (2022). Public Works, Spatial Strategies, and Mobility in Late Medieval Ghent. Journal of Urban History
This article argues that medieval urban authorities developed nodal spatial strategies to mitigate various risks—from accidents, floods, and military vulnerability to sickness and scarcity. Using digital methods (Geographic Information System [GIS]) to map public works during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in one large city (Ghent), it offers a fuller understanding of urban governance in dialogue with a city’s topography and environmental and sociopolitical challenges. Ghent’s authorities invested in gates, bridges, markets, thoroughfares, key buildings, and waterworks. Tracing their interventions reveals the city as an interconnected, moving system, an economy of movement. Attention concentrated on these points because several types of interests related to communal well-being converged there. The city was thus capable of absorbing shocks (war, floods) through regular maintenance and monitoring. Tracing public works that promoted mobility can therefore tell us much about power dynamics and how communities functioned in practice.
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