Through Frosted Glass

Peering through frosted glass: imprints as sources for women’s work

By Heleen Wyffels – this text appeared originally on


[…] prynted now agayn at Antwerpe, by me wydowe of Christoffel of Endhoven In the yere of oure Lorde. M.CCCCC. and .xxxiiij. […]

At first sight, imprints like these are a dream source for every scholar doing research on early modern women’s work. They contain date and place of publication, and the printer and/or bookseller. In short, they provide information on the production of early modern books which makes it relatively easy to link products to producers. As the example shows, they even regularly mention widows. Catherine was the widow of Christoffel of Ruremund (also known as Christoffel of Endhoven), and published William Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament in Antwerp in 1534 and 1535.

Imprints can be a lot of fun too: not every printer wanted to be identifiable, especially not when printing illicit texts or images. They often pretended to be someone else, for example a colleague from another city, or they made something up. Books printed by “Common sense”, “Lucifer”, and “The printing house of the four chatterboxes who came down from the moon” are just a few examples that demonstrate inventive cheekiness and commentary on the printer’s part.[1]

Although interesting, these fictional imprints point towards a problem of interpretation that extends to the ‘factual’ ones: they do not simply tell us who printed the text. Even if the imprint plainly identifies the printer, the division of work in his or her workshop remains obscured. Hence, it remains uncertain to what extent women were actually involved in the production of early modern printed texts and images. As Susan Broomhall has pointed out, imprints are indeed unreliable sources for the actual involvement of women in the book trades. According to her, imprints can both obscure work by wives and daughters behind the name of a man, as well as give the false impression that a woman headed a business. Broomhall has suggested that women often appeared in imprints while the day-to-day management of the firm was left in the hands of a man – a competent journeyman, for example.[2]

In contrast to Broomhall, Natalie Zemon Davis proposes a far more positive interpretation of imprints. In general, women were primarily rooted in their immediate environment – the neighborhood – and they were noted for their work skill there. An exception to this rule was the printing trade, where women’s names were distributed far outside their communities. Anna van Ertborn, widow of Joannes Steelsius, is an excellent example. From a contract we know she was indeed involved in the printing house. Books mentioning her in their imprints were printed in her workshop in Antwerp, shipped to Spain, and from there even travelled to the Spanish colonies overseas.[3] Zemon Davis seems to look at imprints not only as (faulty) transmitters of bare facts, but also as statements of ownership. Helen Smith takes this interpretation a step further and looks for “the narrative possibilities these brief statements describe or evoke”.[4]

What emerges from this brief overview is that imprints are difficult sources to interpret when studying the contribution of women to the book trade. While these difficulties do not apply exclusively to women, they are rarely raised in discussions of male printers. The most famous Antwerp printer, Christophe Plantin, kept appearing in imprints although he was elderly and ill. During this time, it was his son-in-law Jan Moretus who actually took care of the day-to-day management of the famous firm. After Plantin’s death, the old master’s name appeared for another year in the imprints.[5] This strongly resembles Broomhall’s argument: during this period, the imprints of Plantin’s firm give the impression that one man was in charge, while it was another who actually provided the day-to-day management of the firm without being acknowledged in the imprints. True, Moretus was not the owner yet – he would eventually inherit the firm with his wife Martina, Plantin’s second daughter – and so, his contribution remains just as hidden as those of Plantin’s daughters themselves. It is only through the unique and rich archives of the Officina Plantiniana that we know more about the organization of work in the firm.

And yet, one rarely encounters a problematisation of Plantin’s role in the firm, or even of less famous men whose involvement in their printing house we cannot corroborate through other sources. We do it routinely, however, for imprints mentioning women. Scholars working on women’s history might be more used to questioning evidence in this particular way because of their sensibility to the invisibility of women’s work. From this mindset, a preoccupation with determining who actually did what seems to have naturally followed. Maybe we should question men’s imprints as meticulously and readily too?


Short Bibliography

Broomhall, S. (2002). Women and the Book Trade in Sixteenth-Century France. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Smith, H. (2012). Grossly Material Things: Women and Book Production in Early Modern England. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Zemon Davis, N. (1982). ‘Women in the Crafts in Sixteenth-Century Lyon’, in Feminist Studies, 8(1), 46–80.

[1] Taken from: S.n., Dialogue entre Fanchette, Bruxelloise. Josephine, Namuroise. Therese, Gantoise. Catherine, Montoise. Tranche-Montagne, soldat patriote. Merveilleux, colpolteur brabançon (Printed by Imprimerie des quatre comères, descendues de la lune [fictional imprint], s.l., 1790), STCV 12919281; s.n., Dialogue entre la folie et la raison (Printed by Sens commun, Evidence [fictional imprint], [1789-]), STCV 12919200; s.n., La bohémienne, ou prophetesse du diable en Brabant (Printed by Lucifer, s.l. [fictional imprint], 1787), STCV 12922969.

[2] S. Broomhall (2002). Women and the Book Trade in Sixteenth-Century France. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 54-57.

[3] N. Zemon Davis (1982). ‘Women in the Crafts in Sixteenth-Century Lyon’, in Feminist Studies, 8(1), 66; C. Manrique Figueroa (2012). Cultural trade between the Southern Netherlands and New Spain: A

history of transatlantic book circuits and book consumption in the early modern age, Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Leuven, p. 132.

[4] H. Smith (2011). ‘‘Imprinted by Simeon such a signe’: reading early modern imprints’, in H. Smith & L. Wilson (eds.), Renaissance Paratexts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 20.

[5] D. Imhof (2014). Jan Moretus and the continuation of the Plantin press: a bibliography of the works published and printed by Jan Moretus I in Antwerp (1589 – 1610). Leiden: Brill, I, pp. 2-3.

Leuven UB CaaA837 binnen 10

Boekhistorisch Forum I, 15/09/2017

Boekhistorisch Forum I

Collegium Veteranorum, Mgr. O. Romerozaal, lokaal 02.10, Sint-Michielsstraat 4, Leuven. Vrijdag 15 september 2017.

Eenmaal per jaar organiseren de Onderzoeksgroep Nieuwe Tijd (KU Leuven) en de Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte (Universiteit Antwerpen) een eendaagse bijeenkomst waarop universitaire onderzoekers lopend of toekomstig boekhistorisch onderzoek voorstellen aan hun peers. Het Forum wil een informele ontmoetingsplaats zijn voor zowel nieuwe als beslagen onderzoekers en benadert het boekhistorisch onderzoeksveld vanuit een brede hoek. Het schenkt daarbij bijzondere aandacht aan de literaire, culturele, sociale, economische en politieke context van het boekenveld doorheen de eeuwen.

De eerste editie van het Boekhistorisch Forum vindt plaats in Leuven op vrijdag 15 september 2017. De voormiddagsessie staat in het teken van de menselijke actoren achter het boek en biedt drie onderzoekers de ruimte om lopend of toekomstig onderzoek inhoudelijk te presenteren. In de namiddag geven drie methodologische en/of conceptuele pre-circulated papers aanleiding tot reflectie en debat. Achteraf kan u napraten op de receptie.

Inschrijven kan tot 31 augustus via Uw inschrijving is voltooid na overschrijving van 10 euro op rekening BE60 7340 0666 0370.


09:00 Ontvangst en registratie

09:20 Welkom door Johan Verberckmoes (KU Leuven)

09:30 – 13:00 Menselijke actoren achter het boek



“Vrouwelijke drukkers in een universiteitsstad. Gender, familie en redactionele keuzes in vroegmodern Dowaai”, Heleen Wyffels (KU Leuven) – referent Bruno Blondé (Universiteit Antwerpen)

“Druk in beweging. Vestigingspatronen van drukkers, uitgevers en boekverkopers in de Lage Landen (1473-1600)”, Kim de Groot (Universiteit Antwerpen) – referent Johan Verberckmoes (KU Leuven)

11:30 Koffiepauze


12:00 “De vroegmoderne circulatie van beschrijvingen over inheemse talen uit de Nieuwe Wereld”, Zanna Van Loon (KU Leuven) – referent Hubert Meeus (Universiteit Antwerpen)


13:00 Broodjeslunch

14:00 – 17:00 Concept en methodologie



“Transregionale boekgeschiedenis: methodologie en gebruik van databases”, Alexander Soetaert (KU Leuven) – moderator Gerrit Verhoeven (Universiteit Antwerpen)

“Een West-Europese canon van gedrukte middeleeuwse romans (1471 – c. 1550). Het spanningsveld tussen theorie en bronnen op een lappendeken van grenzen”, Elisabeth de Bruijn (Universiteit Antwerpen) – moderator Marc Van Vaeck (KU Leuven)

15:30 Koffiepauze


15:45 “De betekenis van het boek – van de vroegmoderne tijd tot vandaag”, Kevin Absillis (Universiteit Antwerpen) – moderator Tom Verschaffel (KU Leuven)


16.30 Afsluiting door Pierre Delsaerdt (Universiteit Antwerpen)

16.40 Receptie

Organisatoren Pierre Delsaerdt, Cara Janssen en Heleen Wyffels



Harvard Report: Asian Borderlands

Asian Borderlands: the First Annual Symposium (25 March 2017)

This symposium formed the closing part of the first annual meeting of a new research network composed of graduate students from Harvard University, the University of Chicago, Columbia University and Cornell University. As a rationale for setting up this network, the organizers stated that:

‘the concept of the “borderland” encapsulates varied concerns of ecological and spatial history, political sovereignty, economic and legal history and socio-cultural interconnections. As a result, several of us, working in disparate departments in distant universities, find ourselves being a part of the same debates from different perspectives. Whether we study the imperial security state, court cultures in frontiers of early modern empires, or social intermediaries in oceanic trade, we ask similar questions regarding the concept. What are the best analytical tools for understanding the borderland, and how can we synthesize different theoretical contributions originating from different regional historiographical literatures? How best to facilitate dialogue between these various conversations to devise better projects and refine our existing ones?’

Effectively, the field of border history seems itself in need for more cross-border syntheses – one recent example being Charles S. Maier’s Once Within Borders. As was anticipated by the organizers, many presenters and participants learned during this symposium that their topics, methods and observations are often easily linkable and that the time seems ripe to connect their separate conclusions. This symposium could logically not offer a full synthesis, but the exchange of information will nevertheless have helped a great deal in moving towards this goal.

The Symposium was divided into three panels, two of which included early modern contributions. In the first, Rukmini Chakraborty (Cornell) pointed to the historiographical neglect of premodern East-Asian commercial law and explained how bonds of ethnicity, mercenary experiences and religious conversions were all supported by the structures of this commercial law. The paper showed how law functioned as a cross-cultural framework for commerce, explored through a messy history of objects and ceremonies. Also pointing towards cross-cultural exchange was the propable involvement of the Arabian East-Asian diaspora in the codification of commercial law, especially in the field of slavery.

Crucial in Chakraborty’s description was how law primarily intended to facilitate cross-border and cross-cultural exchanges: it was used as a practical tool, for example for solving disputes between the captains of ships and the owners of the cargo they transported. Other laws were aimed at preventing mutiny, or at dealing with shipwrecks and the aid of ships in difficulty. Even the Europeans used this cross-border commercial law, with one English captain asserting his rights by referring to the ‘old customs of Malaka’.

Still, such contacts were not always easy: what Europeans perceived as blackmail, was in fact an intricate local practice that formed a mix between European contracts and gift-giving ceremonies involving sacred symbols such as royal seals a nd swords. Conversely, locals found the European obsession with the written word strange, as they indeed focused more on the mentioned gift giving and ceremonies. Eventually, a strange hybrid emerged in the trade between locals and Europeans that included both ritual gift giving and the filling in of written registers.

In the same panel, Thomas Newbold (Chicago) also focused on law, more specifically the legal conflict over ownership and use of land in Chittagong (1761-1800). His paper questioned how colonial changes entered local politics, and how this influenced the local legal systems used to deal with law and commerce.

Moving to Japan, Jonas Rüegg (Harvard) contended that the Pacific rim of medieval and early modern Japan has so far not been debated from a frontier perspective, despite the existence of sources that indicate that this was effectively the case. For one, the early colonization of the Ogasawara Islands indicates that Japan’s maritime expansion plans not necessarily started with the Meji revolution. The island of Hachijo was for example separated from mainland japan by a particularly strong current (koroshiro), but nevertheless maintained contact with the political center in Edo. Its inhabitants were largely depended on the import of calories from Honshu, and thus traded rice with silk and other goods. Chinese and European ships were also regularly shipwrecked in this region, which allowed the population to coerce these merchants to sell their loads significantly under the price – except when the Shogun owned the goods and the islanders preferred to limit their pressure. Rüegg himself pointed to the similarities between his case and those studied by James Scott in Zomia: the islands at Japans Pacific frontier were largely autonomous communities due to their geographical location, but were nevertheless tied to a center by some form of tributary role that allowed them to trade with the mainland.

The second panel discussed the topic of ‘edges of empires’. Lei lin (Harvard) demonstrated how the merchants involved in the trans-Himalayan trade were used as political messengers, translators, spies, informants, ambassadors, ‘think-thankers’, and navigators in the struggle over the Qing-Tibetan borderlands (1788-1793). Especially the Qing dynasty tried to enroll these traders in their attempts to integrate Tibet in their Empire. Interestingly, this increased struggle over the borderlands also led to the increasing of border controls through paperwork, tariffs and border inspections. As such, it would be interesting to see how this case compares to similar examples of border making in Europe.

In the same panel Aniket De talked about Lord Curzon and the reconfiguration of Imperial borders. In particular, he discussed the shift from fighting tribes to more peaceful interactions, as demonstrated by attempts to integrate Baluchistan into the imperial Indian frontier by the turning of a screw instead of with a hammer. Moreover, this led De to an interesting parallel between Curzon and Warren Hastings: in his view both were imperialists, but as consolidators and not as expansionists.

Finally, and skipping the third section which focused entirely on modern history, the symposium ended with a discussion led by Peter Perdue (Yale) and Sugata Bose (Harvard). One question that emerged during this debate involved the notion of borderlands itself: does the category of borderland work as a historical tool or has it become too broad to be functional? As was the case with the (dis)entangling global early modernities-conference held a day earlier, at the heart of the matter were indeed the terms and concepts historians use to analyze, frame and describe their research. Much work can still be done in this regard, but with symposia such as this we are off to a good start.


Harvard Report: (dis)entangling globalization

(Dis)Entangling Global Early Modernities, 1300-1800 (24 March 2017)

There are conferences with impressive line-ups, and then there are conferences with very impressive line-ups. The Harvard conference on (Dis)Entangling Global Early Modernities certainly fell in the latter category, as it included several of the most renowned early modernists. Being organized by Michael Tworek (Harvard), Stuart McManus (University of Chicago), Devin Fitzgerald (Harvard) and Anja-Silvia Goeing (University of Zurich), this was indeed one of the most anticipated conferences of the spring semester.

Beyond the scholars involved, the topic itself was considered extremely timely – as is currently the case with many conferences involving global history. Although planning for the conference had started more than a year ago, Professor Tworek explained in his introductory remarks that the political changes in the UK and in the US had already led to arguments about the ‘death’ or ‘demise’ of global history. And if commentators had not yet placed it on its deathbed, then they at least asserted that global historians will need to change their overall approach. In their opinion, too many historians have namely overlooked the costs of (early modern) globalization and ignored those whom it left behind.

In this regard, the conference promised to evaluate the heuristic device of ‘disentanglement’. Explained in brief, this notion is aimed at better understanding the connections within early modern globalization. Again in the view of Professor Tworek, the early modern world pivoted towards integration but contained many incomplete patterns and loose threads. Disentanglement is anticipated to pull at these threads, which in turn would allow us to see where and how they connect with the wider fabric of early modernity. As such, Tworek hoped that the conference would deal with both integration and disintegration, connection and disconnection, and entanglement and disentanglement.

In order to do so, the conference worked around three central topics. The first panel focused on (dis)entangling ideas in early modern globalization and included presentations by Xin Wen (Harvard), Anand Venkatkrishnan (Oxford) and Michael Tworek himself. It also included interventions by Tamar Herzog (Harvard) and Carolien Stolte (Leiden). The second session zoomed in on book history and its relation to globalization with the facilitators here being Ann Blair and Alexander Bevilacqua (both Harvard), and the presenters Holly Shaffer (Darthmouth), Nir Shafir (University of California) and Devin Fitzgerald. Finally, session three discussed scholarly practices and included contributions from Darrin McMahon (Darthmouth), Ananya Chakravarti (Georgetown), Kirsten Windmuller-Luna (Princeton), Stuart McManus and Gregory Afinogenov (Harvard).

Most anticipated was however the concluding roundtable debate, which featured amongst others David Armitage (Harvard) and Roger Cartier (Collège de France). The discussion, held barely two months after the inauguration of President Trump, quickly turned towards the role historians have in analyzing globalization both in the past and in the present. The roundtable also assessed how the increased hostility towards migration and cross-border connections might affect the field itself. Some argued that disentangling globalization will not be enough because it is part of set of familiar historiographies, one that has eventually aided populists to gain power. Others contended that disentanglement is needed because global history has still not been able to escape its originally Eurocentric framework.

To illustrate the dominance of contemporary events even further, during the Q&A session with the roundtable panel, no less than four questions (about one-third of the discussion) pondered directly about the relation between politics and history. In response, virtually all panelists agreed that every history is political, but very few agreed on what that means with regard to the way forward. Some seemed to take the direction that more of the ‘standard’ narratives of global history are needed to oppose populism; others stated that global history should look more towards the ruptures created by globalization itself. Still others felt that historians should pursue first and foremost their own interests, as this more detached research will provide society with a stronger basis to deal with its own past.

Eventually, and despite the political controversies, the conference ended with an appraisal of the notion of disentanglement itself. Most of the participants were in agreement that historians need to look both at what connects and what disconnects. But as a very final question, one senior professor in the audience asked a poignant question: if historians look at what was entangled in the early modern world, does that not automatically mean that they also get a view of what was disentangled? And, in an even more direct question, the same professor asked if the organizers would have selected different participants if the conference had been called simply ‘Entangling Global Early Modernities’?

Beyond the great line-up, this final question was indeed at the core of a greatly inspiring conference: at what point and for what reason do we change the name of what we as historians are doing, and do changes such as going from entanglement to disentanglement really influence the core of our work?

In any case, feel free to judge for yourself: the opening remarks on disentanglement can now be found online and are open for discussion.


Harvard Report: Con-IH 2017

CON-IH 17: Global and International History: Migration, Immigration and Diaspora (9-10 March 2017)

This year, the Harvard Graduate Student Conference on International History (Con-IH) organized its seventeenth edition, opting for the hotly debated topic of ‘Migration, Immigration and Diaspora’.

The goal of the conference was, in the words of the organizers:

‘to discuss cutting-edge studies that take up the subject of migration in international, regional, and global historical context, for any era from Antiquity to the present, and proceeding outward from any world region. Human migration, immigration and diasporas have played a fundamental role in world development and continue to do so. The forced and free movements of people throughout history intersect with some of the most important subjects of urbanization, imperialism, slavery, capitalism and globalization’.

On its promise of geographical and topical variety the conference certainly delivered. The presentations focused, amongst others, on migration from Haiti to Chicago; in and around the Western Sahara; from Japan to wider South-East Asia; between China and Nigeria; and on diasporas in Bagdad and Bangladesh.

Unfortunately, the expectation of temporal breadth could not be met. It is of course more than possible that only a few non-modernists submitted a (relevant) proposal, but it was nevertheless disappointing to see a final line-up that included seven speakers working on the 20th century, with two more on 19th, and only two early modernists and one medievalist. Moreover, the keynote speaker – Professor Paul Kramer – and all of the three panel discussants were also modernists.

The result was a conference that remained firmly centered on the history of migration in the last two centuries, with only a little attention going to the highly creative work in the fields of early modern and medieval migration history.

That being said, the presentations of the three non-modernists provided perfect samples of that creative work.* Pierre-Emmanuel Bachelet (ENS-Lyon) focussed on the role of the Japanese diaspora in early modern globalization. Debunking the idea that the first waves of Japanese migrants to South-East Asia were made up of mercenaries and smugglers while subsequent waves were made up of legal traders, he argued that there actually existed a continuum between these two types. As an added bonus, the focus on this continuum also revealed how problematic the distinction between forced and voluntary migration can be.

Secondly, Alasdair Grant (University of Edinburgh) told the history of Captivity, Ransom, and Letter-Writing in Byzantium and Its Neighbors, c. 1204-1453. Zooming in on the practice of ‘aichmalosia’  or the capturing and ransoming of Christian Byzantines by Muslims (and sometimes by fellow Christians) he painted a detailed picture without overestimating the capacity of the sources available. Grant brought the practice of aichmalosia vividly to the fore, revealing much about the societal structures that allowed for the liberation of the prisoners. As such, his material begs for a comparison with other medieval cases but also with the well-known study of early modern Christian slavery in North-Africa and the attempts to buy their freedom.

Finally, Tim Soriano (University of Illinois) presented a paper on ‘The Royal Navy, Legal Pluralism, and Authority in Early Colonial Sierra Leone, 1670-1815’. His work shows how legal practices in the British Atlantic World were largely built around procedures established by the Royal Navy, and how naval regulations and customs translated into the rule of law and administration on land. Soriano described in an intricate way how efficient law changed in the colonial context of Sierra Leone, describing it as a ‘motley’ composition based on legal pluralism.

All in all, the quality of all of the papers (the modernists also provided highly stimulating presentations) ensured that the relative lack of early modern and medieval history was quickly forgotten. Moreover, the general discussions took on a particularly relevant character due to the on-going changes in contemporary U.S. politics. Taking place not even two months after the inauguration of President Trump and the announcement of his travel ban, the conference brought the societal role and future of migration history several times to the fore. No definitive answers could be provided, but one thing seemed certain: the debates about migration will not cease anytime soon, and the graduate students that presented at Con IH 2017 will certainly have their say in it.

For more information, see

(*In order to avoid misrepresentations of their material, this report has paraphrased parts of the abstracts of the three highlighted speakers. For the full abstracts, see the Con-IH website).


Construire la frontière, 26-27 May 2017

Construire la frontière. Les Croÿ, Montcornet, et les Guerres de Religion International conference, Château de Montcornet en Ardenne, 26-27 May 2017 450 years ago, on 5 May 1567, Antoine de Croÿ-Porcien passed away. In his days, the baron of Montcornet-en-Ardenne was better known as le calviniste, acting as one of the Protestant leaders during the French Wars of Religion. Since the year 2017 likewise marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the association ‘Les Amis de Montcornet’ will organize a conference taking place on the historical site of the castle of Montcornet, now in the French Ardennes near Charleville-Mézières. The papers presented by researchers from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom will focus on the part played by the Croÿ-family in the religious and political conflicts of the 16th century, particularly in the border region between France and the Habsburg Low Countries. Organising committee: Antonin Van Haaster (Association des Amis du château de Montcornet), Yves Junot (Université de Valenciennes et du Hainaut-Cambrésis), Violet Soen (KU Leuven).

For additional information and registrations, please contact Violet Soen.

A full programme can be found through this link: Depliant_coloque_montcornet_09


Prof. Dr. Violet Soen

Violet Soen conducts and coordinates research into transregional history at the Early Modern History Department of KU Leuven, in order to map the movement of persons and ideas across, along, and beyond political borders in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. For too long, a state-centred historiography has underestimated these constant exchanges and mobilities, and with the other members of this research group, she aims to challenge. She is currently working on a book project of transregional noble elites between the Low Countries and France in the ‘long’ sixteenth century.

Find out more at:

Recent publications:

Professor Soen is general editor of the series Habsburg Worlds by Brepols Publishers. This series covers the vast conglomerates under the rule of Spanish and Austrian members of the Habsburg dynasty. The series focuses on the daily experiences, social networks, trade routes, religious motivations, legal traditions, intellectual currents and political cultures in these regions. It aims to foster an interdisciplinary and comparative approach necessary for studying the manifold languages, cultures, histories and traditions in Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia once under Habsburg administration or overlordship.


V. Soen and L. Hollevoet, ‘Le Borromée des anciens Pays-Bas? Maximilien de Berghes, (arch)évêque de Cambrai et l’application du Concile de Trente (1564-1567)’, Revue du Nord, forthcoming.

V. Soen and A. Van de Meulebroucke, ‘Vanguard Tridentine Reform in the Habsburg Netherlands The episcopacy of Robert de Croÿ, bishop of Cambrai 1519-1556)’ in: V. Soen, D. Vanysacker and W. François (ed.), Church, Censorship and Reform in the early modern Habsburg Netherlands (Bibliothèque de la Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique 101), Turnhout, forthcoming.

V. Soen, ‘La nobleza y la frontera entre los Países Bajos y Francia: las casas nobiliarias Croÿ, Lalaing y Berlaymont en la segunda mitad del siglo XVI’, in: M. Merluzzi and G. Sabatini, Fronteras. Representaciónes, integraciónes y conflictos entre Europa y America, s. XVI-XX, Rome, (2016).

V. Soen, ‘Exile encounters and cross-border mobility in early modern borderlands: the Ecclesiastical Province of Cambrai as a transregional node (1559-1600)’, in: Belgeo : Revue Belge de Geographie / Belgisch Tijdschrift voor Geografie / Belgische Zeitschrift für Geographie = Belgian Journal of Geography, 2015, 2 (2016), 2-13. Link to article

V. Soen, ‘The Chièvres Legacy, the Croÿ Family and Litigation in Paris. Dynastic Identities between the Low Countries and France (1519-1559)’, in: L. Geevers and M. Marini (eds.), Dynastic Identity in Early Modern Europe: Rulers, Aristocrats and the Formation of Identities (Politics and Culture in Europe, 1650-1750), Ashgate, Farnham, 2015, 87-102. Link to article

V. Soen, A. Soetaert, and J. Verberckmoes, ‘Verborgen meertaligheid. De katholieke drukpers in de kerkprovincie Kamerijk (1560-1600)’, in: Queeste: tijdschrift voor middeleeuwse letterkunde in de Nederlanden, 22:1 (2015), 62-81.

B. De Ridder and V. Soen, ‘The Act of Cession, the 1598 and 1600 States-Generals in Brussels and the peace negotiations during the Dutch Revolt’, in R. Lesaffer (ed.), The Twelve Years Truce (1609): Peace, Truce, War and Law in the Low Countries at the Turn of the 17th Century (Studies in the History of International Law, 5), Leiden, Boston: Brill/Nijhoff, 2014, 48-68.

V. Soen and H. Cools, ‘L’aristocratie transrégionale et les frontières. Les processus d’identification politique dans les maisons de Luxembourg-Saint-Pol et de Croÿ (1470-1530)’, in: V. Soen, Y. Junot en F. Mariage (eds.), L’identité au pluriel. Jeux et enjeux des appartenances autour des anciens Pays-Bas, XIVe-XVIIIe siècles / Identity and Identities. Belonging at stake in and around the Low Countries, 14th-18th centuries (Revue du Nord, Hors série, Collection Histoire 30), Villeneuve d’Ascq, 2014, 209-228

V. Soen, ‘La Causa Croÿ et les limites du mythe bourguignon: la frontière, le lignage et la mémoire (1465-1475)’ in: J.-M. Cauchies and P. Peporte (eds.), Mémoires conflictuelles et mythes concurrents dans les pays bourguignons (ca. 1380-1580) (Publications du Centre d’études bourguignonnes XIVe-XVIe s. 52), Neuchâtel, 2012, 81-97.

V. Soen, ‘Naturales del país o Espaignolizés? Agentes de la Corte como negociadores de paz durante la guerra de Flandes (1577-1595)’ in: R. Vermeir, M. Ebben and R. Fagel (eds.), Agentes y Identidades en movimiento. España y los Países Bajos, siglos XVI-XVIII, Madrid, 2011, 171-193.

Contact details:


Adress: KU Leuven, Onderzoeksgroep Nieuwe Tijd, Blijde Inkomststraat 21 bus 3307, B-3000 Leuven.


Crossing Ocean Currents

Crossing Ocean Currents: Belgium at the Intersection of 18th-Century Transatlantic Revolutions

Scholar: Dr. Jane Judge

This project investigates ideologies and manifestations of nationhood and patriotism in the (First) Belgian Revolution (1787-1790). Simultaneously, it seeks to place that upheaval in the Austrian Netherlands in the broader constellation of transatlantic and transregional revolutions that rocked the North Atlantic-European world at the end of the eighteenth-century. In particular, and taking cues from Janet Polasky’s latest book Revolutions Without Borders: The Call to Liberty in the Atlantic World, the project focuses on how ideas moved between and among revolutionaries in the United States and Britain, the Dutch United Provinces, France, and the Austrian Netherlands.

Werner Thomas

Prof. Dr. Werner Thomas

Werner Thomas (°1966) is Associate Professor of Iberian and Iberoamerican history at the University of Leuven. He has published on the repression of Protestantism in Spain (1517-1648), the Habsburg court of the Archdukes Albert and Isabella Clara Eugenia in Brussels (1598-1621), the Siege of Ostend (1601-1604), and the political and cultural relations between the (Southern) Netherlands and the Spanish empire (1500-1700). His current research projects include the contribution of Flemish prints and engravings to the construction of the Spanish empire in America, focussing on New Spain, Peru, and New Granada (1520-1800), the Southern Netherlands as a centre of accumulation and translation within the Spanish monarchy (1520-1700), and the role of Hispano-Flemish elites and mixed identities in the continuation of Flemish loyalty to the House of Habsburg (1659-1708).

Recent publications:

Professor Thomas is director of the series Avisos de Flandes at Leuven University Press. This series focuses on transregional and intercultural exchanges in the Habsburg Empire and beyond.


E. De Bom, R. Lesaffer and W.Thomas (eds.), Early Modern Sovereignties. Theory and Practice of a Burgeoning Concept in the Netherlands, Brill, forthcoming.

W. Thomas, ‘The metamorphosis of the Spanish Inquisition, 1520-1648′, in: D. Prudlo (ed.), A Companion to Heresy Inquisitions, Brill, forthcoming.

W. Thomas, ‘Inquisition and repression of Protestantism in Spain’, in: M.Ortrud Hertrampf (ed.), The Reformation in Spain, Peter Lang, forthcoming.

W. Thomas, ‘Printing for the Empire: books from the Habsburg Netherlands in Spanish America, 1500-1700′, in: Quaerendo, forthcoming.

S. Dupré, B. Demunck, W. Thomas, G. Vanpaemel (eds.), Embattled Territory. The Circulation of Knowledge in the Spanish Netherlands, Ghent, 2015.

W. Thomas and J. Verberckmoes, ‘The Southern Netherlands as a Centre of Global Knowledge Concerning the Iberian Empires in the Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries’, in:  S. Dupré, B. Demunck, W. Thomas, G. Vanpaemel (eds.), Embattled Territory. The Circulation of Knowledge in the Spanish Netherlands, Ghent, 2015, 161-197.

W. Thomas, ‘The Treaty of London, the Twelve Years Truce and Religious Toleration in Spain and the Netherlands (1598-1621), in: R. Lesaffer (ed.), The Twelve Years Truce (1609): Peace, Truce, War and Law in the Low Countries at the Turn of the 17th Century (Studies in the History of International Law, 5), Leiden, Boston: Brill/Nijhoff, 2014, 277-297.

W. Thomas, ‘De Zwarte Legende voorbij. Spanje, de Zuidelijke Nederlanden en de eerste globalisering, 1500-1700′, in: Academiae Analecta. Mededelingen van de Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van België voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten, 20 (2013), 3-20.

Contact details:


Adress: KU Leuven, Onderzoeksgroep Nieuwe Tijd, Blijde Inkomststraat 21 bus 3307, B-3000 Leuven.



Languages in a globalizing world

Evolving views on the world’s languages in a globalizing world (1540-1840): information growth, conceptual shifts, scholarly networks in the circulation of linguistic knowledge.

Ph.D-researcher: Zanna Van Loon

Promotors: W. Thomas, T. Van Hal, L. Behiels

The project aims at conducting a systematic study of the historical (institutional and socio-cultural) and of the ethnolinguistic organization frames of the descriptions, and of the circuits of their production, diffusion and reception. The general research hypothesis we want to explore is the following: the growth of ethnolinguistic information on non-European languages (which we will study for the period 1540-1750) was initially a by-product of religious and political interest and imperialist drift, and became, in the course of the 18th century a prominent subject of historical and philosophical research. The working hypothesis is that changes in the status and functionality of linguistic and historical information are reflected in changes of the nature and organization of the networks of production, transmission and reception of this information.