Constructing and Deconstructing the ‘State’: the Case of the Low Countries


  • Frederik Buylaert
  • Marie-Gabrielle Verbergt



The birth of the Low Countries is a thorny issue since the rise of history as an academic discipline in the nineteenth century, and the problem is likely to haunt historians for some time to come. From the eleventh century onwards, the patchwork of principalities that had emerged between France and the German Empire acquired a distinct cachet as most of these principalities became exceptionally urbanized. As Flanders, Brabant, Guelders, Holland, and so on were all fiercely independent, scholars all agree that the increasingly structural socio-economic integration of these urbanised regions did not automatically lead to political integration, even if the ruling dynasties of these principalities were prone to intermarry. Yet, this political integration did take shape in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries when a series of contingent factors – ranging from bankrupt princes to accidental deaths – allowed a collateral branch of the royal house of Valois to inherit, to purchase, or to conquer a lengthy string of principalities that eventually stretched from Frisia to the Franche-Comté.


This article is part of the discussion forum 'Constructing and Deconstructing the ‘State’: the Case of the Low Countries'.


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Author Biographies

Frederik Buylaert

Frederik Buylaert (1981) is research professor of late medieval and early modern history at the University of Ghent. His research focuses on social history, urban history and the history of state formation. Recent publications include: ‘Record Keeping and Status Performance in the Early Modern Low Countries’, Past & Present 230 (Supplement 11: L. Corens, K. Peters and A. Walsham (eds.) The Social History of the Archive: Record-Keeping in Early Modern Europe) (2016) 131-350; (with J. Haemers); ‘Lordship, Urbanisation and Social Change in Late Medieval Flanders’, Past & Present 227 (2015) 31-75; ‘The Transformation of Rural Elites in Late Medieval Flanders. Oligarchy, State Formation and Social Change in the Liberty of Bruges (ca. 1350-ca. 1525)’, Continuity & Change 30 (2015) 39-69 (with A. Ramandt). Email:

Marie-Gabrielle Verbergt

Marie-Gabrielle Verbergt ma (1995) is a historian and Master’s student in the Social Sciences (The University of Chicago) with an interest in theoretical history, twentiethcentury historiography and medieval history. Recent work: Mediëvisten en moderniteit. Periodisering in het debat over de ‘Bourgondische staat’ na 1945 (Master’s thesis Ghent University 2017). Email:




How to Cite

Buylaert, F., & Verbergt, M.-G. (2017). Constructing and Deconstructing the ‘State’: the Case of the Low Countries. BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review, 132(4), 75–79.