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Law and Order - The role of the institutions in creating the legislation in the Low Countries (1500-1700s)


Law and Order - The role of the institutions in creating the legislation in the Low Countries (1500-1700s)

jeudi 18 octobre 2018



The history of legislation should not be limited to the study of legislative acts’ content. Legislation can clearly be seen as an instrument of early modern governments, but it must also be considered as a tool of communication between those that rule and their subjects. Understood as a communication process, the study of the early modern legislation decisively opens up a new angle in this field of research. Therefore, it must be realized that the history of legislation should be considered through a plural and multifactorial approach.

Amongst the possible angles, we have chosen :
The decision-making process should certainly receive attention. The study of the early modern legislation must necessarily echo the decision-making process by which a simple act’s draft becomes an edict ready to be proclaimed and/or printed. Considering the study of the decision-making process implies to question the value of advices and deliberations taking place before the edict’s promulgation. To what extent did the legislator rely on advice issued by provincial or local authorities? How was managed the flow of communication between different institutions or between different jurisdictions? This means mapping this communication, not just on a central level, but also provincially and locally. Another element, complementary to the first, is the publication of legislation. It has always been essential to ensure a good dissemination and good publicity when promulgating legislation. The authority of the government was at stake.

If the oral dissemination of the law during the Middle Ages is a well-studied topic, we cannot say the same regarding the impact of print on oral practices linked to the law’s publication. For instance, to what extent have the rulers pushed to use the printed version of an edict to complement an oral announcement?? Furthermore, the question of the (in)effectiveness of legislation should also be asked. By considering ex-post-analysis methods we can judge the (non-)applicability of legislation, arguments of subjects regarding disobedience or mobilisation of legislation in court. Legislation should thus be placed in a social context, as social phenomena can be enforced. It is therefore also fruitful to question the interconnectedness and reciprocal influence of legal sources. One might think about the customary law incorporated in legislative acts or foreign influences.

With this workshop, our aim is to draw attention to specific territories, i.e. the Habsburg Netherlands and the United Provinces. Although following diverging paths from 1560’s onwards, these areas do share a common legal past making early modern legislation interesting to study. Therefore it is important and even necessary to be able to study these two political spaces together in order to be able to highlight specific practices, both those that form a common ground and those that make the areas unique.

By bringing together researchers from Belgium and the Netherlands, this one-day workshop intends to shed light on a poorly studied phenomenon but genuinely key for the early modern period.

Presentations should not exceed 20 minutes. A discussion will be held at the end of each session.




9.30 : Welcome

9.55 : Introduction

10.00 : Key-note
Interstate influences on early modern police ordinances
Jorgen Mührmann-Lund, Århus


Session 1

Chair : Louis Sicking, Leiden/ VUAmsterdam

10.45 : “De publicatie van den niewe ordonnantie”. The making and printing of ordinances and instructions for the Court of Holland, 1462-1811
Marie-Charlotte Le Bailly (Red Star Line Museum

Publishing and Distributing Government Print in the Dutch Golden Age
Arthur der Weduwen, St. Andrews

11.45 : Posters session
Kevin DeKoster, UGent
Lies van Aelst, UU/Wethoudersvereniging
Inès Glogowski, VUB/UCLouvain


12.00 : Lunch


Session 2

Chair : Griet Vermeesch, VUB

13.15 : Touchy Questions ? Decriminalizing the body in the Austrian Netherlands : the example of Suicide and Torture
Xavier Rousseaux, FNRS/UCLouvain & Romain Parmentier, UCLouvain

(In)effectiveness of the legislation in the Habsburg Netherlands (1598-1665)
Nicolas Simon, FNRS/UCLouvain/USL-B

Establishing and implementing security-regulations and ‘Bona Politia’ in Flanders (1579-1701). Concepts, Normative Texts, and Instruments
Annemieke Romein, UGhent/EUR

15.00 : Tea break

15.15 : Conclusion
René Vermeir, Ghent

15.45 : Discussion & Future Prospects
Annemieke Romein, UGent/EUR & Jorgen Mührmann-Lund, Århus

16.00 : End



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