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Burger (from the German word "burg" - castle, fortress, city) - a resident of a Western European medieval city. Like a knight, a monk, a peasant, a burgher is one of the main characters in medieval history.

The early Middle Ages was an agrarian (agricultural) era. Most of the old ancient cities were destroyed and eked out a miserable existence. However, in the X-XI centuries. important changes took place in Western Europe. From among the peasants, who in their free time made the things they needed - clothes, tools, kitchen utensils - craftsmen emerged who made the craft their main occupation and left peasant labor.

Gradually, the craft separated from agriculture and became the occupation of a special group of people - artisans. Dissatisfied with the high dues demanded by the feudal lord, artisans ran away from their estates, wandered, and then founded settlements at crossroads, at river crossings and near convenient sea harbors. New dwellings were built near the walls of large monasteries and castles of noble feudal lords, among the ruins of Roman fortresses. You can always buy handicrafts here. Merchants came here, and soon merchants began to live here. It was to these settlements that peasants from the surrounding villages hurried to sell agricultural products and buy the necessary things.

The descendants of the inhabitants of these settlements - dependent peasants and village artisans who fled or moved by agreement with their masters to the city that was being born before their eyes - were the first burghers.

Cities grew as centers of crafts and trade. Already in the XI century. ancient cities were revived and new cities arose in Italy and in the south of France. In Germany, many cities arose along the banks of large navigable rivers - the Rhine and Danube. Cities also appeared in other countries of Western and Central Europe.

Having arisen on the land of feudal lords and churches, medieval cities were under their rule. Seniors demanded numerous duties from the townspeople: for passage to the city, for the transport of goods, for the right to build houses, for the right to trade. The lord judged the townspeople, he could call them to his service in the city militia. Therefore, at first the burghers were powerless, as were the villagers.

Simultaneously with the patriciate, at the other pole of urban life, a group of people formed, consisting of unfortunate apprentices, day laborers, and beggars, which was called the plebeian. The place between the patriciate and the plebeians was occupied by the middle strata of the urban population - artisans united in workshops, small and medium merchants. As a result, the word "burghers" began to be used not only in a broad sense - "all the townspeople", but also in a narrow sense - "the middle strata of the urban population."

But in the cities, faster than in the villages, the spirit of independence grew. After all, a medieval artisan was the owner of his own workshop and the products he created. The townspeople were not as strongly connected with the land as the peasants. Finally, many of them had money - a powerful force, sometimes not inferior to the sword.

In the X-XIII centuries. a desperate struggle unfolded against the townspeople seigneurs for independence, for the right to self-government. The feudal lords firmly held on to their possessions, which brought them income, but still they were forced to put up with the exit of cities from under their subordination.

In the struggle against the feudal lords, the cities grew stronger, and the urban estate (burghers) turned into a significant social force. Artisans united in workshops, and merchants - in guilds. The city community (commune) elected a city council to govern the city. Members of this community acquired personal freedom and privileges associated with it - to be subject only to the city court, to dispose of city property. The free spirit of the city attracted like a magnet. Dependent peasants from all over the area fled here. Usually, having lived in the city for one year and one day, the former serfs received freedom and became full-fledged burghers. Apparently, these lucky ones made up the well-known medieval proverb: "City air makes you free." Only in the XIV-XV centuries. the city gates began to close before the seekers of freedom.

After the liberation from the power of the feudal lords in the cities, property inequality came to the fore. Although all the townspeople fought against the seigneurs, only the urban elite, the so-called patriciate, took full advantage of its results. It included representatives of the richest urban families - merchants, usurers, owners of large buildings. The patriciate ruled the city council and exercised power, relying on his wealth, in his own interests. The needs of ordinary citizens were not taken into account, and they lived almost as hard as under the feudal lords. The patriciate, quickly forgetting his hatred of the former lords, adopted their habits, manners, love of luxury and contempt for ordinary people. The so-called feudalization of the patriciate took place. The burghers, who were not part of the patriciate and hardened by the experience of the previous struggle against the lords, opposed the urban patricians with weapons in their hands. In the struggle for power and equality in the city, apprentices, oppressed by guild masters and dissatisfied with their masters, also participated. City life seethed: some burghers grew rich, prospered, occupied important positions in city government, others became poor, went bankrupt, fell on the sidelines of life.

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