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A reconstruction of the medieval urban network of the Vukovo county based on the analysis of the central functions


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Jelaš, Danijel. (2018). A reconstruction of the medieval urban network of the Vukovo county based on the analysis of the central functions. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of History.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij medievistike) [mentor Andrić, Stanko].

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One of the main problems a medievalist might encounter is a complex issue of definition and categorisation of urban settlements. This problem emerges from the fact that it is not always a simple task to identify crucial characteristics upon which one can distinguish urban from rural places. It takes more than one criterion to define a city. In that respect, the city should not be viewed merely as a densely populated place, or a place with many streets and squares, a place where the majority of population is not agricultural, or as a privileged community of citizens. The most important theoretical work in the field is Die Stadt by Max Weber, published post mortem in 1925. He was the first one who realised, when referring to the definition of the medieval city, that it takes a combination of criteria in order to deal with the problem of marginal and unusual examples. Also, he abandoned the size as the main criterion for determining the importance of cities and turned to their functions as economic, political, administrational, defence, juridical and ecclesiastical centres. A certain turning point in urban geography occurred when a German geographer Walter Christaller published his work on South German central places in 1933. By introducing a theory of central places, that is, a concept of hierarchical distribution of centres based upon their centrality level, which is determined by the accumulation functions in the city and its influence on the immediate and broad surroundings. Although Christaller did not intend his theory as a tool for historical research, in the past several decades it has become widespread as one of the leading theoretical concepts for the reconstruction of the historical urban networks. When we refer to the problem of definition of urban places in the medieval Hungary, the most complex is the period from the beginning of the 15th until the first half of the 16th century. During that time, we can notice a vast development of the urban network. Prior to that, it comprised mainly of privileged royal cities and episcopal cities. The written sources called these places civitates, which remained the main term for the settlements of the highest importance and urban development. But, in the 15th century, we witness an increasing number of other places, also regarded as (semi-) urban, called oppida, or market towns, usually private towns, functioning as the main settlements on a manor. Although, the sources, as well as royal decrees, distinguished civitates and oppida as two different types of urban settlements, the former being more urban, or more city-like, than the latter, when we try to determine the type of a certain individual place, we can come across a problem of inconsistent use of terminology in sources. Also, if we want to define the urban network in an area, we need to know the exact meaning of each term, but the medieval documents do not exactly provide simple and unambiguous explanations. The early renaissance author of the first collection of the Hungarian custom law, István Werbőczy, gives certain definitions of legal and topographical provenance for a city (a privileged community of citizens, a place with houses and many streets). Nevertheless, this does not help in the situation where you have such a place, but the documents call it an oppidum, or even oppidum seu civitas. This is when one realises that the terminology in the sources is not enough to deal with the problem of categorisation of medieval urban settlements. One of widely accepted approaches to have dealt with this problem, at least in the Hungarian historiography, is a system of criteria for quantifying central functions of the late medieval central places in Hungary, devised by a historian András Kubinyi. He based his system on the theoretical framework of May Weber and the Central Place Theory by Christaller. In order to determine which settlements can be regarded as cities, he gave points (1-6) to each central place according to ten criteria for appraisal of the central functions, and then he made a hierarchical chart according to the points (max. 60) and categorised the central places into seven categories. The first four categories he regarded as urban, and the fifth as a transitional one. By his categorisation, he did not abandon the original terminology or tried to introduce a new typology of settlements. He merely tried to determine the position of a place in the hierarchy of the Hungarian urban network. During more than two decades of work, he managed to process large parts of Hungary, and he modified his criteria according to results of his research. Although he never finished his work before he passed away, many of his students and other researches continued to apply his system. As for the parts in the present-day Croatia, there were no attempts to systematically apply Kubinyi’s system on one of the counties south of the Drava. Any research to do so, would be a contribution to the overall research of the urban network of the medieval Hungary. One of the well populated and well positioned counties was the Vukovo County, bordered by three large rives, the Drava, the Danube and the Sava, and transacted by important roads leading from south-eastern parts of Europe to the centre of the Hungarian Kingdom. During the Late Middle Ages, it had developed a polycentric urban network with several important cities, among which was Ilok, one of the principal residences of the dukes of Ilok (Újlak). Although Kubyiny’s system is widely accepted, there are some criteria that could use some optimisation. They either neglect some important urban attributes (such as places of pilgrimages), or they measure certain functions inadequately (e. g. the function of road intersection being measured according to quantitative criterion-the number of road connections, instead of qualitative criterion – the position on the main routes, or river crossings), the use of the Ottoman sources for the criterion for fairs under the assumption that the Ottomans did not found fairs in the 16th century, or some criteria cannot be supported by the historical sources (oppida mentioned prior to 1490 are less likely to be regarded as more urban than the ones mentioned posterior to the year). Therefore, I suggested certain modifications of the system in my dissertation in order to correct certain values that I think did not accurately reflect the central functions. The principal aim of the study is to reconstruct the urban network of the Vukovo County by the analysis of the central functions of the settlements. The main method used is the Kubiny’s system of the criteria, according the latest version published in 2004. In parallel to the analysis according to the Kubinyi’s original criteria, the central places were also analysed according to the modifications I introduced. The overall number of central places in the analysis is 56. That includes all the settlements called civitates and oppida in the medieval, and varos in the Ottoman sources. Also, all the places for which we have a weekly market or an annual fair documented in the medieval or Ottoman sources. Since the modified criteria exclude the Ottoman sources from the analysis, the overall number for the parallel research is 50. For every individual place, a research was conducted based, mainly, on the archival documents, on the includes line of ownership, location, residence and administrational functions, juridical functions, financial institutions, ecclesiastical administration and institutions, students on foreign universities, trade and merchant guilds, roads count, fairs and markets and legal status. The results of the analysis showed that, in comparison to average values for the Transdanuiban region, Northeast Hungary and The Great Plain, the county of Vukovo is somewhat less urbanised according to Kubiny’s system of criteria, that is the average values for the first four categories for the Hungary proper varies from 10,1 to 14,1 % of the overall number of central places, while the value for the Vukovo County is only 5,4 %. The average value for the transitional 5th category for the Hungary proper varies between 11,5 and 18,7 %, whereas for the Vukovo County this value is 7,3 %. The very urban network comprises of two cities in the 3rd rank, Ilok and Đakovo, whose influence as centres in the 15th century stretches beyond the southern border of the Kingdom. In the 4th rank we have Gorjani, as the former main residence of the Gorjanski (Garai) family. The other important urban places (5th rank) are Osijek, Morović, Ivankovo, Sotin, Nuštar, Nijemci and Vukovar. With the application of the modified criteria the ranking of the two principal cities does not change, but it does for the ranks 4 and 5, mainly because of exclusion of the Ottoman sources for the data on fairs and markets. Accordingly, Gorjani are demoted to the 5th rank, while Sotin Ivankovo, Nuštar and Nijemci were demoted to the 6th rank. Osijek, Morović and Vukovar remained in the 5th rank, while Šarengrad (Atya) and Borovo were promoted to the 5 th rank. The overall result of the research is an image of the urban network that, generally, enables a better insight into the urbanisation process in the county. There are three main conclusions, regarding the theses set forth at the beginning of the research: a) The research proved that there were more than one city in the Vukovo County, according to Kubinyi's system in the 15th and early 16th century. b) The research also proved these cities were similar regarding their degree of centrality. c) Although they were similar in rank, the cities had different functions, and thus had a different role in the county’s urban network d) Some results indicate that there may be a connection between the geographical similarities between the regions and the similarities in the structure of their urban networks, as Kubinyi suggests, but the available data is only partial, so the connection cannot be confirmed. In the end, we can conclude that the research with all its results should be able to contribute to any synthesis in the fields of urban history or historical geography. Also, the data collected, as the methodology used was compatible to the one applied for the Hungary Proper, could be integrated in a database of information for the medieval settlements in these parts, similar to the efforts by Pál Engel and his digital vector map of Hungary around 1500, but more advanced in order to enable various “big data” analyses in the field of digital humanities.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: city, market town, central functions, central places, Vukovo County, András Kubinyi, urban network, Middle Ages
Subjects: History
Departments: Department of History
Supervisor: Andrić, Stanko
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij medievistike
Date Deposited: 20 Mar 2018 11:40
Last Modified: 20 Mar 2018 11:40

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