What exactly was urban politics like in early modern Europe? Let us begin by taking a close look at one of the most typical scenes of urban political life in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries: the meeting of a city council. The city we have chosen is Cologne, a major commercial center on the Rhine river in the westernmost part of Germany. Friday 2 October 1545 was an unusual day in only one respect: it was the first day of the city government’s winter schedule, when the thrice-weekly council meetings began at 9 a.m., rather than 8 a.m. as in the summer months. In every other way, however, the order of business that Friday morning was entirely routine.