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Burghers (bûrˈgərz), in the 18th cent., a party of the Secession Church of Scotland, resulting from one of the “breaches” in the history of Presbyterianism. To qualify as a burgess in certain burghs one was required to take an oath accepting the “true religion presently professed within this realm.” Opinion differed as to whether this referred to the Protestant religion in general or to the Established Church. Those in the Secession Church who understood the oath in the former sense were the “Burghers,” or the Associate Synod. Opposed to them were the Anti-Burghers, or the General Associate Synod, who refused to take the oath. The two bodies mutually excluded each other in 1747. By the end of the century both divisions were further split apart into “Old Light Anti-Burghers” and “Old Light Burghers” and “New Lights” in each division, over questions of civil magistracy. In 1820 Old Lights and New Lights were brought together again in the United Secession Church.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



in the broad sense, all the inhabitants of a Western European city during the Middle Ages who were covered by city law—that is, all the members of the city commune, including the city’s patricians; in the narrower sense, the sense in which this term is used most frequently in historiography, the middle stratum of a city’s population, consisting primarily of independent master craftsmen who usually belong to guilds and medium-sized and small merchants.

The burghers formed as a stratum during the struggle against the feudal seigneurs (11th—13th centuries) for city land, a process of liberation from feudal exploitation. They were descended primarily from dependent peasants and rural artisans who had fled to or moved to the city. In the early stage of the development of cities (approximately up to the 14th and 15th centuries), city communes generally accepted these people freely as members (that is, as burghers), helping the feudally dependent peasants to gain their personal freedom. The mandatory attributes of burgher status were personal freedom and the privileges that derived from it—the exclusive jurisdiction of the city court and the right to control one’s own property, for example.

The burghers had an economic interest in the centralization of the country, and in most cases they supported the royal authority against the great feudal lords. With the emergence of the so-called estate monarchy, the burghers, who had grown economically, won the right to participate in representative-estate institutions and finally became an estate in feudal society. Generally speaking, only the rich burgher elite was represented in the estate institutions, and it was this group that took power in those cities where the burghers were victorious over the patricians. The burghers occupied a dual position in feudal society. On the one hand, they constituted a tax-paying estate, unprivileged and lacking certain civil rights; on the other hand, they were a propertied stratum, the upper elements of which exploited the lower strata of the city. The burghers participated actively in antifeudal actions, simultaneously displaying the tendency to reach agreements with the feudal lords. The lower burghers frequently acted in consort with the plebeians and peasants.

The burghers played an enormous role in the development of feudal society. They facilitated the development of commodity-money relations and created their own urban culture, which bore the seeds of an antifeudal ideology and prepared the way for the humanist movement of the Renaissance. During the 16th-18th centuries, some burghers who had shifted to capitalist methods of production were involved in the formation of the bourgeoisie, while impoverished strata of burghers swelled the ranks of the city plebeians.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Medieval communes established tribunes to adjudicate disputes between burghers according to the jus mercatorum; they also established a "peace"--or penal code--to provide security to the commune (Pirenne [1925] 2014, pp.
Luckily, those same burghers (a more farsighted lot than today's heads-in-the-sand antidevolutioners) persisted.
To a burgher like Weinsberg, the paper and words he used were potent means of acting in the world and forming a "paper memory" to pass on his legacy.
Rodin's Monument to the Burghers of Calais, of 1889, has been brought up from London, and the suffering and distress of the brave burghers, offering themselves as hostages in the 100 years war, is plain to see.
Meanwhile, the burghers would do better to examine preferential 20% council tax rates given to so-called charity shops, which are selling non-donated factory seconds, including furniture, at high prices, and seeing off legitimate businesses paying the full whack.
One of her works titled Left Behinder has a canopied bed enmeshed by lace panels; on the bed, a trunk with a video installation is placed surrounded by a webbed-in constellation of bottles with food recipes encapsulated as posthumous references to the lost community of Burghers (Sri Lankan Eurasians).
in person; here, too, the tragic burghers of Calais,
As chairman of the leisure scrutiny committee, it will be Coun Alden's job to check the small print on whatever decision the city burghers come to over the hallowed game.
He indulged in self-portraits when important burghers of the city stopped commissioning him for their paintings following an incident where Rembrandt refused to give in to their demands.
The burghers of the Maiden City decided pounds 50,000 would help strengthen the "support infrastructure for Travellers".
What kind of overseas victory over calamity would it take to persuade the good burghers of St Helens to get out the bunting today?
The burghers of that town have not put up their council tax precept for the second year running - because they already have an 'embarrassingly high' amount of money and don't know what to do with it.