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Urban society in the Low Countries (late Middle Ages - 16th century)

Research project P5/10 (Research action P5)

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Description :

As a continuation of IAP phase IV n° 14, the project aims at expanding the historical study of urban society in the Low Countries in both a chronological sense (by pushing the investigations further into the 16th century) and a geographical sense (by engaging a Dutch team). Research will cover the most urbanised core regions of the Low Countries (Flanders, Brabant, Holland and Hainault) and will stress the comparative study of these regions (comparing them with other regions in the Low Countries and Europe).

A structuralist paradigm was predominant in the former phase: such subjects as the study of urban networks, financial realities, commercial techniques and networks and mentalities vis-à-vis certain groups were stressed (see the synthesis report of the former phase IV n° 14 and the ex-post evaluation). Building on these insights this project emphasizes the new perspective of socio-cultural history, concretised in four research modules:

1. Town and countryside: economic, social and cultural osmosis,
2. The regulation of behaviour,
3. Urban identity
4. Social and cultural urban history: urban middle groups.

While it is obvious that the first and fourth topics have engaged the attention of urban historians for sometime, it is important to stress that, in the context of this project, they will be treated from a new angle, as they will be enriched by the questions put forward in modules (2) and (3), which embrace topics which have recently come into focus in international research.

The teams (RUG, ULB, UFSIA, RULeiden, KBR) were composed by taking advantage of existing competences. In each research module at least two or three teams will directly participate. The composition of these teams, it is to be noted, demonstrates a clear tendency to rejuvenation and feminization.

The project’s research strategy is, on the one hand, to promote doctoral theses by new, young researchers in order to maximize original fundamental research and, on the other hand, to draw on the experience of a substantial number of post-doc researchers. Moreover, in order to enhance the scientific output frequent conferences will be organized and a synthesis will be written by the partners at the end of the project. Furthermore, the topics of the project will be systematically introduced into the post-graduate teaching programs.

The project hopes to make a substantial contribution to the field of urban history. For generations, Belgium has enjoyed an international reputation in this research field. The project will favour topics (the development of an original political culture, the evolution of collective behaviour in times of political and economic expansion) which are also important for understanding our present-day society. But, above all, and taking into account the importance of the phenomenon of the city in the history of the Low Countries, the project will contribute to the understanding of the singular development of the Low Countries within the European context.

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