Wednesday November 16th, 2016. Faculty Library Arts & Philosohpy, Magnel-wing, Room “Freddy Mortier”
Non-members who wish to attend can sign-up with Kornee van der Haven: email@example.com. GEMS-members don’t have to register.
Frederik Buylaert: Lordship and the Rise of States in Western Europe, 1300-1600
This project pursues a new interpretation of state formation in Western Europe between 1300 and 1600. This period is considered as the key phase in the genesis of the modern state, as various polities now centralized fiscal and military resources under their command. While there is debate whether this was primarily a top-down process carried by princes, or a bottom-up process carried by popular representation, scholars agree that state building was exclusively a process of centralization. This assumption must be questioned, as recent studies have raised awkward questions that cannot be answered by the current paradigm. The research hypothesis is that the emerging states of Western Europe could only acquire sufficient support among established elites if they also decentralized much of their legal authority through a process in which princes created a growing number of privately owned seigneuries as “states-within-states” for the benefit of elites who in return contributed to state building. This project will study the interplay between states and seigneurial elites in five regions – Flanders, Guelders, Normandy, Languedoc and Warwickshire – to test whether fiscal and military centralization was facilitated by a progressively confederal organization of government. Together, the case studies cover four key variables that shaped the relations between princes and power elites in different combinations all over Europe. It concerns different trajectories in 1) state formation, 2) urbanization, 3) the socio-economic organization of rural society and 4) ideological dissent. As a result, the comparisons between the case studies will yield an analytical framework to chart and to explain path-dependency. Inversely, this research project is also interested in exploring the social context of this process, through a focused study of what lordship meant to contemporaries. For this purpose, special attention is paid to literary sources in which lordship figures large in issues of self-representation.
Anne-Laure Van Bruaene: Golden Ages. City and Society in the Low Countries, 1100-1600
Between 1100 and 1600 the Low Countries were amongst the most urbanized regions of Europe. Amsterdam, Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Tournai, Ghent and many other cities developed into vibrant economic and cultural centers. The urban “middling groups” played a central role: these small producers and shopkeepers, organized in craft guilds, turned the Low Countries into a unique region. The new synthesis “Golden Ages”, written by a number of Belgian specialists and based on more than 25 years of intensive research, analyzes the characteristics of this urban society from different perspectives: economy, social life, politics, civic religion, urban space, material culture and knowledge. The focus is not on one city but on the whole network of large cities and small towns.