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The politics of factional conflict in late medieval Flanders


  • This article is the result of the authors' combined research at the Pirenne Institute for Medieval Studies at Ghent University (Belgium). Recently, Jelle Haemers moved to the University of Leuven. The authors thank Peter Hoppenbrouwers (University of Leiden) for encouraging them to pursue this line of research, and Shennan Hutton for correcting their English.


Twentieth-century scholarship gave birth to two distinct and antagonistic traditions regarding the feuds that frequently occurred in the urbanized society of late medieval Flanders: that factionalism was rooted in the clashes within urban elites; or that it rose from the tensions that existed between different socio-economic layers of society. This article develops a perspective that integrates those older traditions through a synthetic discussion of the discourse on factionalism in late medieval sources and a reassessment of the distribution of wealth, power and honour in late medieval Flanders. It also connects the debate on urban factionalism to recent scholarship on the genesis of the ‘princely state’ in the medieval Low Countries. The growing political influence of the Burgundian dynasty in urban factional conflict in Flanders is unmistakable, but the growth of state power probably did not lead directly to a decrease in ‘private violence’.