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Towards a New Administrative Culture? Culture and Administration in the Late Medieval Netherlands


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. It is not accessible for BA students.
As most original sources are in Dutch, a (passive) knowledge of the Dutch language is required.
There will be an Entry test for this seminar.


The fifteenth century witnessed the definitive breakthrough of bureaucratic government in de Low Countries. Under instigation of the Dukes of Burgundy and the provincial Estates, the old feudal councils were dismantled and replaced by professional institutions, the old baronets by learned clerks. At the same time the institutions gained public significance as courts of law etc..

This fascinating process was accompanied by a fundamental cultural change. On the one hand, the new councilors used strict procedures and ‘style formats’, on the other hand they developed into the new cultural elite, writing new forms of literature.

In this course, we will research the development of the new culture of administration in the Burgundian Netherlands (fifteenth-sixteenth centuries) on the basis of the original sources in archives and manuscript-departments.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;
  2. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;
  3. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  4. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  5. The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;
  6. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;
  7. The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;
  8. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
  9. The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;
  10. (ResMA only): The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

  1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subspecialisations as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;
    • in the specialisation Europe 1000-1800: broader processes of political, social and cultural identity formation between about 1000-1800; awareness of problems of periodisation and impact of ‘national’ historiographical traditions on the field;
  2. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subspecialisation in question, with a particular focus on the following:
    • in the specialisation Europe 1000-1800: the ability to analyse and evaluate primary sources from the period, if necessary with the aid of modern translations; ability to make use of relevant methods of quantitative and qualitative analysis to interpret sources in their textual and historical context.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

The student:

  1. Is familiar with concepts on (administrative) culture;
  2. Has a good knowledge of the administrative history of the Burgundian Netherlands;
  3. Is able to work with and analyse sources that are produced by late medieval administrations in the Netherlands;
  4. (ResMA only): Is capable of working with abstractions of culture, by comparing administrative culture with literary culture.


The timetable is available on the MA History website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Lectures 13×2: 26 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 24 hours

  • Writing the paper (incl. study of literature and sources): 230 hours

Assessment method

  • Written paper (ca. 7500 words, based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography)
    Measured learning objectives: 1-8, 10-16

  • Entry test
    Measured learning objectives: 13-14

  • Oral presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 3-7, 9, 13-15


Written paper: 75%
Entry test: 10%
Oral presentation:15 %

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.


Blackboard will be used for: - Communication

Reading list

  • Jacob Soll, The reckoning. Financial accountability and the rise and fall of nations (New York 2014)

  • Additional literature will be announced and/or supplied via Blackboard


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. Robert Stein


In order to read the sources, knowledge of the Dutch language is required.