2014 results

In 2014, the team intensified their efforts and continued their investigations into towns, both old and new, in the Romanian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia for the 16th-18th centuries (or even early 19th century). Their research confirmed the conclusions reached in previous years, that towns were especially dynamic in this period, with a heightened social mobility, even though the historical periods concerned displayed stages of growth or regression.

The team members, who were highly familiar with the period, did not encounter any significant problems during research. Afterwards, the team focused on sources, both primary, and secondary and officially published or not, within archives or libraries, and located original documents, charters, official reports, and censuses, which were then subjected to critical scrutiny and interpretation. The investigations were undertaken in branches of the National Archives (Bucharest and Iaşi, mainly), in the Romanian Academy Library, the Central University Library, as well as in the National Library of Vienna  (Die Österreichische Nationalbibliothek). Preliminary results were presented at in-country conferences (Iaşi, Bucharest, Sibiu), as well as in France and Poland. We will end this brief introduction by mentioning that the third year in the grant was also the year when the anticipated budget decreased drastically; however, promises were made that the final amount would be again allotted in 2015; despite these obstructions, the objectives set were attained.

Up to now, the urban world in the late Middle Ages and in early modern times has been approached in a generic fashion, and scholars have not provided insights into the life of individuals, their way of life, their mindset, what clothes they wore and what food they ate, their relationships, etc. The economy of towns also required a more detailed description, since we are not yet fully aware how the local populace made a living, what it manufactured and for whom. We have incorporated all this into a wider concept, i.e. “urban civilisation”. But did the Romanian Principalities ever have such a civilisation? Yes, if we were to ask the researchers participating in the project. The towns in this historical and geographic area, at least in the 17th-18th centuries no longer resembled Medieval towns. The inhabitants were still free people, but urban communities did not enjoy the “freedom” acquired in late Middle Ages. As the influence of the Ottoman Empire increased, and, as part of a wider European process, the central authority gained power at the expense of the other layers of society, which had an indirect consequence where townspeople were concerned: a lower degree of representation and an ever-increasing diversity of legal statuses. After 1700, the judeti or soltuzi and the pârgari become only a simple guild (a shadow of their lost authority), and the townspeople mingle with boyars, but also peasants or the destitute. The Church is ever more present in the urban environment, with more and more monasteries, which come to complement the churches on the outskirts. The priors weigh heavily in town affairs, especially where finance is concerned. In this last respect, changes are obvious, with the crafts becoming more specialized, the guild system consolidating only in the later period and the trade with the East intensifying – this is where the cash flow mainly came from. Wars between the greater powers, which became more frequent in the Romanian territories, led to the decay of some towns. The same wars brought foreign armies, soldiers and officers here; they would all come into contact with the locals and would allow the Romanian Principalities to change stance in international relations, but also where regional economy and mindsets (mores, clothing, food) were concerned. In all this time, with all the changes that had occurred and in rather unfavourable conditions, local urban civilisation endured and created its own manifestations. We will never find elements in the Romanian Principalities that would clearly point to internal cohesion, and we have already indicated part of the reasons for this. The urban community was not consistent in its development and it has not passed on to us any products of urban “thinking”, nor any rituals or specific ceremonies. Instead, if we were to focus on individual persons, we would soon notice that the townspeople were different to the inhabitants of the village or monasteries. They were not fundamentally different, but their perspective varied: since they had to make a living in their environment, they were more open to change – this feature can be explained by their coming into contact with foreigners, in towns or as part of their journeys – and they were more adapted to the requirements of the market – evidence to this being the specializations indicated in the censuses preserved. If we were to add to this the fact that towns were the area where most foreigners settled (Greeks, Serbians, Armenians and especially Jews – the last two groups being especially urban), then arguments for a civilisation specific to towns increase.

Based on these interpretations, Laurenţiu Rădvan has finished or sent for publication several studies which have also fulfilled the objectives set. The potential and announced extension of the grant deadline with one more year has allowed the participants to focus on case studies, approaching various evolutions in the Iaşi area, and analyzing the evolution of this old Moldavian town that became the country’s capital. The economic potential of the town was harnessed by some rulers, as well as the nearby monasteries: witness to this is the emergence of several market towns, which are part of a delayed process of urbanization. We will begin by mentioning the study Cu privire la şesul Bahluiului, valea Nicolinei şi începuturile Târguşorului de lângă Iaşi, published in vol. Retrospecţii medievale. In honorem Professoris emeriti Ioan Caproşu, Iaşi, The „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University Publishing House, 2014, p. 523-546. This volume, dedicated to Professor Ioan Caproşu is also edited by Laurenţiu Rădvan (along with acad. Victor Spinei and Arcadie M. Bodale). The research initiated in this study was also continued in Locuri şi oameni din Iaşi. Consideraţii cu privire la începuturile Podului Roş, now printing at „Analele Ştiinţifice ale Universităţii Al. I. Cuza”, the Istorie series, LX (2014) – a journal included in CEEOL. We should also mention that the study Urban Space in the Romanian Principalities of the Middle Ages. Organized or random development?, previously sent for publication (also grant research) in vol. Cities and Their Spaces. Concepts and Their Use in Europe, ed. Michel Pauly, Martin Scheutz, Köln, Weimar, Vienna, was published this year at the famous Böhlau Verlag (Städteforschung collection, vol. 88), p. 77-87. Part of the research was also published in the country: Între sat şi oraş: Târguşorul Nicolina de lângă Iaşi, a presentation held as part of the national conference themed Relaţia oraş-sat, organized by The Committee for the History of Towns and the Astra Museum in Sibiu, Sibiu (June 13th-14th, 2014);  Câte Târguşoare Nicolina au existat lângă Iaşi?, a presentation held during the Zilelor Universităţii / Dies Academici event at the “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi (October 24th, 2014).

Gheorghe Lazăr has continued his research into his main field of interest, urban society. The volume titled Le commerce du luxe, le luxe du commerce, coord. Natacha Coquery, Alain Bonnet (in print) will publish Dr. Lazar’s study Les marchands de luxe, le luxe des marchands en Europe Orientale. Le cas de Valachie (XVIIe-XVIIIe siècles), p. 183-190, presented in a previous conference (also as part of the grant), with research on Wallachian merchants. Dr. Lazăr has also published a study focusing on the case of a town inhabitant who became rich through various means: Despre averea unui slujitor domnesc: cazul căpitanului Anton arapul, in vol. Retrospecţii medievale. In honorem Professoris emeriti Ioan Caproşu, Iaşi, The „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University Publishing House, 2014, p. 351-372. The grant topic makes publishing merchant documents very important – process began last year, and it will continue. Vol. II in Documente privitoare la negustorii din Ţara Românească, has been published – it covers the years between 1689 and 1714, with 334 new documents on the activities, the life, the customs and the pursuits of merchants south of the Carpathians, a very important tool for scholars interested in urban life in the  17th-18th centuries. Gheorghe Lazăr has achieved his goals, and continues by analyzing the most significant social category in pre-modern towns: the merchants.

Other members of the team have also been engaged in similar activities. Dan Dumitru Iacob, one of the most important specialists on town atlases in Romania, has given a lecture in Wroclaw, Poland, regarding Romanian experience on historical towns atlases. The case of Braila, along with Laurenţiu Rădvan, highlighting the changes that the town of Brăila underwent in the centuries of interest. Petronel Zahariuc has written the study Oraşe vechi, oraşe noi, în ţinutul Dorohoi. Catagrafia locuitorilor din târgurile Dorohoi, Târgul Nou (Mihăileni) şi Săveni, now in print in „Analele Ştiinţifice ale Universităţii Al. I. Cuza”, the Istorie series, LX (2014) – a journal included in CEEOL.

The most important achievement for this year is the publication of a volume of studies, where the team members contributed significantly. It is titled Oraşe vechi, oraşe noi în spaţiul românesc. Societate, economie şi civilizaţie urbană în prag de modernitate and is coordinated by the head of the project, Laurenţiu Rădvan, focusing on the changes in urban civilisation between the 16th century and early 19th century. Gheorghe Lazăr comes up with an interesting contribution in this respect (De la Râmnic la Veneţia şi Sfântul Mormânt. Catastiful negustorului Constantin Malache (secolul al XVIII-lea)) that puts to use the data in the balance sheet belonging to a merchant in 18th century Wallachia. The multitude of data provided by this exceptional document, but also those encountered in other archives, allows us not only to retrace the main stages in the life of Hagi Constantin Malache, but also to capture his business pursuits. Based on what the register indicates, he had close ties to the merchants in Venice (selling wax) and in the Transylvanian towns (especially Sibiu), and he was also involved (alongside Church hierarchs) in trading religious books necessary in carrying out religious service; he also held under lease the salt mines in Wallachia. The text published in the volume by Laurenţiu Rădvan also contains a case study, an analysis of the Nicolina market town, which opened up a new phase in the urbanization of the East-Carpathian area, and it all began with one of Grigore II Ghica’s initiatives in 1729 (Primul târguşor din Moldova: Târguşorul Nicolina). Following the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca in 1774, there is an actual “boom” of market towns, that will cater to this demand. Târgușor – situated on the banks of Nicolina River near Iași – is, however, a special case, since it is a market town created on the outskirts of a large Moldavian town, the actual capital of the country. Târgușor had been tied ever since its early days to the fair that was to be held here several times a year, and to the road it was located on, a gateway into Iași, not only for travelers, who preferred the inns in Iași, but also for people from rural areas, who tried to come closer to the town or even settle in it. The article published by Dan Dumitru Iacob (Piaţa din faţa mănăstirii Sfântul Spiridon din Iaşi) in the volume also focuses, in another case study, on an analysis of the effects that the Organic Statute had on urban modernization. This article seeks to analyze the general legislation which stimulated the creation and modernization of markets in Iasi, and also the causes, economic and urban, which resulted in the creation of the commercial market and a parking place for public carriages near the south-western wall of the monastery of St. Spyridon. The carrying out of the project was long and strenuous: starting from the idea of establishing a square to finally creating a commercial market and a parking area for carriages. The market had its share of problems, which were caused by the economic competition of neighboring markets and abuses by the authorities..

When the head of the project called for other researchers with an interest in the subject to participate, senior specialists have responded, as well as researchers specializing in the field. The volume also includes studies by the following authors: Constanţa Vintilă-Ghiţulescu (Prin lumea urbană românească la început de epocă modernă: sociabilitate şi petrecere); Julia Derzsi (Aspecte şi forme ale micii criminalităţi în oraşul şi scaunul Sibiu la începutul secolului al XVII-lea. Modalităţile unei cercetări empirice); Cristian N. Apetrei (Exploatarea sării la Târgu Ocna în epoca modernă timpurie. Constante ale activităţii şi estimări cantitative); Mihai-Cristian Amăriuţei şi Ludmila Bacumenco-Pîrnău (Despre epitropiile înfiinţate de domnii fanarioţi în Iaşii veacului al XVIII-lea); Sorin Grigoruţă (Măsuri de prevenire a apariţiei şi răspândirii epidemiilor de ciumă în oraşele Moldovei); Marius Chelcu (Evoluţia stăpânirii teritoriului urban la Tecuci şi o catagrafie din anul 1828); Bogdan Mateescu, Compoziţia familiei şi a menajului în târgurile din Prahova şi Săcuieni în recensământul general din 1838); Silviu Văcaru (Noi informaţii cu privire la dezvoltare urbanistică a oraşelor şi  târgurilor din Moldova la jumătatea secolului al XIX-lea). The volume is 397 pages long and has been published at the „Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University Publishing House of Iaşi.