Tot nut van 't algemeen? Een historische blik op de Vlaamse provincies als intermediair bestuursniveau


  • P. Heyrman



Regional history, Provinces, Identity


For the Benefit of the Common Good? A Historical View on the Flemish Provinces as an Intermediary at the Level of Administration
The nation state of Belgium saw its provinces chiefly as intermediary administrative entities from which political dispute had to be excluded. Nevertheless, they disposed of elected provincial councils and enjoyed fiscal autonomy. Although the provincial governments underwent a slow process of politicisation, the effects of the broad socio-political developments over the course of the last two centuries on this level remained far less tangible, due above all to the slow democratisation of the provincial suffrage. The provinces only had a modicum of public visibility and a very limited scope for policymaking.


To argue their relevance, the provincial governments referred occasionally to the shared history of their respective inhabitants or to their cultural coherence(s). But this discourse was not powerful enough to shape a common provincial cultural identity. Moreover, it clashed on the artificial borders of the provinces and with the much stronger feelings of local and regional coherence. By clustering these expressions of (sub)regionalism, the provincial governments may have provided building stones for the creation of identity-structures on a higher level. However, this role too remained very modest and can hardly be used to substantiate the institutional tenacity of this level of government.


This article is part of the forum 'De taaiheid van de provincie'.


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How to Cite

Tot nut van ’t algemeen? Een historische blik op de Vlaamse provincies als intermediair bestuursniveau. (2008). BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review, 123(3), 368-377.