Burgundy and the Netherlands

Jan Dumolyn

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online June 2011 | | DOI:
Burgundy and the Netherlands

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy


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The composite dynastic state ruled by a branch of the Valois dynasty, which is here referred to as “the Burgundian lands,” was one of the most significant and powerful political entities of later medieval Europe. Historians usually speak of the Burgundian state between 1384 and 1492 and of the Habsburg state for the period after that. At its zenith in the middle of the 15th century, the Burgundian state consisted of two geographically separated complexes of principalities in Burgundy proper (the duchy of Burgundy and the county of Burgundy also knows as the Franche Comté) and in the Low Countries (the duchies of Brabant, Limburg, and Luxembourg; the counties of Flanders, Artois, Hainaut, Namur, Holland, Zeeland, Nevers, and Réthel; the seigniories of Antwerp, Mechelen, Salins, and Frisia the cities of the Somme, Péronne, Montdidier, and Roye; and, between 1473 and 1477, the duchy of Guelders). Though the Burgundian state obviously derives its (contemporary) name from the ; Burgundian possessions, its economic and cultural center of gravity was situated in the densely urbanized northern territories and especially in Flanders, Brabant, Artois, and Holland. Of foremost importance were the industrial city of Ghent and the commercial metropolis of Bruges, both in the county of Flanders. Other major urban centers included Brussels and Louvain in Brabant and Dordrecht and Leiden in Holland. In the latter half of the 15th century Antwerp rose as the most important port of 16th-century Europe, while the city of Mechelen increasingly took on the role of capital of the northern Burgundian dominions. Several of the Burgundian territories had a very productive agricultural economy, including the cultivation of industrial crops. The dominant industries were textiles, brewing, metalwork, and the luxury trades. The language of the administration was French, but Dutch was spoken by most inhabitants of Flanders, Brabant, Zeeland, and Holland. Perhaps the most substantial sector in literary production in the Burgundian lands was produced by the rhetoricians (rhétoriciens in French or rederijkers in Dutch). The northern territories were also the home of important manuscript production, tapestry, goldsmith and silversmith work, and miniatures, which were also produced for an international market. The most significant cultural achievement of the Burgundian lands, however, was the Northern Renaissance in painting, with prominent individuals such as Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling.

Article.  8279 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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