'In den beginne was het woord'. De vroege groei van 'parlementen' in de middeleeuwse vorstendommen der Nederlanden
In the beginning, there was the word. The early evolution of parliament in the mediaeval princedoms of the Netherlands
‘Parliaments’ or representative political institutions in the princedoms of the Low Countries came about as a result of political practice rather than any legislative initiative. There is a clear link with the early and exceptional degree of urbanisation: the earliest manifestations of institutions that deal with aspects that could be described as representing the people appear in an urban context. From the protection and promotion of the interests of the urban elites grew the practice of limiting the princely manifestations of power or at least subjecting them to some control from the top down. This practice resulted in the development of a political culture in which basic values such as communication, participation and co-management played a central role.
However, the final result was not entirely flawless: a tendency towards oligarchy among those in representative functions and a complex entanglement of financial interests reduced the effectiveness of the institutions, while the growth of princely power and the accumulation of coercive power in the hands of the prince was not held in check by any form of critical opposition from those who represented the people.
This article is part of the special issue 'Parlementen in de Nederlanden'.
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