As from the 14th century, the Burgundian dukes ruled a conglomerate of smaller states in between the Kingdom of France and the German Empire. They were succeeded by the Habsburg rulers who created a world empire on which the sun never set. This process of state-formation turned people from different territories into subjects of the same prince. Comparable situations can easily be found in medieval and early modern Europan history. Many Europeans were thus governed by rulers from outside, more often absent than present, and without a deep knowledge of local languages and costums. How were these composite monarchies governed and how did the subjects combine loyalty to the over-arching dynasty (though not always) with a defense of local privileges?
Answering these questions takes us to the practice of government, studying both formal institutions such as parliaments and governors, and informal networks between court and country. They also lead us to texts and ideas on the role of both princes and subjects. What was expected of a good prince? What rights did subjects have? Studying composite monarchies includes looking at possibly different roles played by the nobility and by burghers, and touches upon ideas on medieval and early modern nationalism. The Dutch Revolt is a clear case in point.
The students may research elements of the Burgundian-Habsburg composite state, but are also free to study other examples within Europe. Possible sources include documents on parliamentary meetings, princely festivals and entries, correspondences from regional governors, constitutional texts,…
Knowledge and understanding of:
The process of state-formation in the period between c. 1350 and 1600
The role of urban elites and nobility in the formation of states
The interaction between state-formation and identity-formation
The ability to select and analyze independently literature and sources
The ability to define and analyze independently a problem, to develop an original research-plan and to explain the results in speech and writing
The ability to participate in recent scholarly discussions.
The ability to develop independently a judgement on the basis of incomplete information
The ability to give constructive feedback on the work of others
Insight into the social relevance of historical processes.
Mode of instruction
Total course load for the course: 10 EC = 280 hours.
Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 2 hours per week x 14 weeks = 28 hours
Time to write a paper (including reading / research): 252 hours
Participation and weekly assignments (15%).
Elliott. J. H., ‘A Europe of Composite Monarchies’, Past and Present 137 (1992), 48–71.
Koenigsberger, H. G.,’Monarchies and Parliament in Early Modern Europe: Dominium Regale or Dominium Politicum et Regale’, Theory and Society 5,2 (1978), 191-217.
If only native speakers of Dutch participate, the course can be taught in Dutch.