TEEME conference 2018




On saturday 26 May, Dr. Alexander Soetaert will deliver the closing lecture at the 2018 Text and Event in Early Modern Europe (TEEME) Conference. The lecture is titled “The Transregional Method: a Tool and Resource for Early Modern Border Research”, and deals with the practical application of the core principles of transregional history:

When it comes to early modern border history, the application of concepts used to study the 19th and 20th centuries has obscured more than it has clarified.  Scholars frequently refer to the multitude of early modern ‘transnational’ exchanges, without clarifying how and why such cross-border exchanges differ from their modern counterparts. After all, modernist historians have argued that without strong states and strong borders there can be no such thing as transnationalism, meaning that the application of the label ‘transnational’ holds an inherent claim about the nature of early modern statehood and the associated borders.
The notion of transregional history offers a way out of this dilemma. Using the case of the Catholic book production in the Ecclesiastical Province of Cambrai – which encompassed the most southern parts of the Habsburg Low Countries and was one of Europe’s most complex border regions – this paper discusses how the method of transregional history has clarified our understanding of early modern cross-border contacts, mobility and transfers. By reformulating classic research questions and making different heuristic choices a totally novel image of the publication of Catholic books in Cambrai during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century emerges. Instead of confirming the widely accepted idea that the ecclesiastical province was largely peripheral to book production, the paper will demonstrate that the region was actually at the heart of innovative developments in Catholic literature, which were significantly fostered by lively cross-border exchanges.


The conference is held from 24 to 26 May in Berlin; more information can be found here.


De Klerk

Overview of publications

Our conceptual and methodological article

V. Soen, B. De Ridder, A. Soetaert, W. Thomas, J. Verberckmoes, S. Verreyken, How to do Transregional History: a Concept, Method and Tool for Early Modern Border Research, in: Journal of Early Modern History, 21 (2017). Link to article.

Avisos de Flandes

The Research Group Early Modern History directs under the supervision of Werner Thomas the series Avisos de Flandes at Leuven University Press. This series focuses on transregional and intercultural exchanges in the Habsburg Empire and beyond. http://upers.kuleuven.be/en/avisos-de-flandes

Habsburg Worlds

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.

Publications by the Research Team:

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

C. Goossens  en J. Verberckmoes, Broze levens, krachtige vrouwen: Zussen, moeders en tantes Goubau in de achttiende eeuw, Leuven, 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.


B. De Ridder, The institutionalization of Habsburg-Dutch border controls during the Eighty Years War, Philostrato. Revista de historia y arte, extraordinary nr. (2018), p. 55-76. Link to article.


V. Soen & A. Van de Meulebroucke, ‘Vanguard Tridentine Reform in the Habsburg Netherlands. The episcopacy of Robert de Croÿ, bishop of Cambrai (1519-56)’, in: V. Soen, D. Vanysacker and W. François (eds.), Church, Censorship and Reform in the early modern Habsburg Netherlands (Bibliothèque de la Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique 101), Turnhout, Brepols Publishers, 2017, 125-144. Link to article.

V. Soen, ‘The Council of Trent and the Preconditions of the Dutch Revolt (1563-1566)’, in W. François and V. Soen (eds.), The Council of Trent : Reform and Controversy in Europe and beyond (1540-1700), Vandenhoeck&Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2017, vol. 2, 255-278. Link to article.

V. Soen & 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 99 (n° 419) (2017) 41-65. Link to article.


A Soetaert, Une Espèce de Déluge dans la Ville… Inondations Urbaines à Namur aux Temps Modernes, Namur, 2016. Link to Book

A. Soetaert, ‘Printing at the frontier. The emergence of a transregional book production in the Ecclesiastical Province of Cambrai (ca. 1560-1659)’, in: De Gulden Passer: Journal for book history, 94 (2016), 137-163. Link to article

B. De Ridder, ‘Early Modern Peace and International Society: Using Disciplinary Hybridity to Question the Pax Hispanica (1598-1618)’, in: The International History Review, published online (2016). Link to article

B. De Ridder,‘Benchmarking the Past: Politico-Legal Connotations of Tradition, Custom and Common Practice in the Diplomacy of the Eighty Years War’, in: Dutch Crossing: Journal of Low Countries Studies, published online (2016). Link to article

B. De Ridder, ‘Sustaining the Munster Peace: The Chambre Mi-Partie as an Experiment in Transnational Border Arbitration (1648-1675)’, in: Journal of Modern European History, 14.1 (2016), 35-53. Link to article

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, ‘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, ‘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.

A. Soetaert, ‘Translating and distributing Italian religious literature in the ecclesiastical province of Cambrai (1563-1659)’, in: Incontri: Rivista Europea di Studi Italiani, 22:2 (2015), 29-40. Link to article

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.


B. De Ridder, ‘Rusland, de Krim en het hernieuwde belang van territoriale claims’, in: Internationale Spectator: Tijdschrift voor Internationale Politiek, 68:10 (2014), 37-41.

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.

B. De Ridder and T. Vermeersch, ‘Grensstudies in de Zwinstreek. De studie en ontsluiting van een historisch grensland’, in: Tijd-Schrift. Heemkunde en lokaal-erfgoedpraktijk in Vlaanderen, 4.1 (2014), 60-74.

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.

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.

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.

J. Verberckmoes, ‘How Dutch Brasil Affects Your Emotions: The Antwerp Jesuit Cornelius Hazart On Early Colonial Brasil ‘, in: M. Van Groesen (ed.), The Legacy of Dutch Brasil, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014, p.146-167.

S. Verreyken, ‘Tijd om te herbronnen. De impact van beeldvorming op de stedelijke groei van Spa in de zeventiende eeuw’, in: Stadsgeschiedenis 2 (2014), 113-129.


B. De Ridder, ‘Frans-Vlaanderen als grensland tussen het koninkrijk Frankrijk en het graafschap Vlaanderen’, Romaneske, 38 (2013), 2-9.

A. Soetaert, ‘“Pour servir de mémoire à la postérité.” Herinneringscultuur en overstromingen in het vroegmoderne Namen.’, in: Tijdschrift voor Waterstaatsgeschiedenis, 22 (2013), 45–56.

A. Soetaert and B. Vannieuwenhuyze, ‘Middeleeuws Namen aan Samber en/of Maas. Beeldvorming en vooringenomenheid in stadstopografisch onderzoek’, in: Stadsgeschiedenis, 8 (2013), 1–18.

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.


B. De Ridder, ‘De Akte van Afstand als pacificatiestrategie tijdens de Nederlandse Opstand (1597-1600)’, in: Handelingen van de Koninklijke Zuid-Nederlandse Maatschappij voor Taal-, Letterkunde en Geschiedenis, 65 (2012), 209-221.

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.


J. Verberckmoes, ‘Parading hilarious exotics in the Spanish Netherlands’, in: Nederlands kunsthistorisch jaarboek, 53 (2003), 53-69.


Transregional History

V. Soen, B. De Ridder, A. Soetaert, W. Thomas, J. Verberckmoes, S. Verreyken, ‘How to do Transregional History: a Concept, Method and Tool for Early Modern Border Research’, Journal of Early Modern History: Contacts, Comparisons, Contrasts, 21 (3), 343-364.

This article argues that the method of transregional history offers a valuable new tool for studying early modern territorial borders. Where existing research strands do not always suffice to accommodate the complexity of such boundaries, this new concept can serve as an alternative. Firstly, transregional history points out that early modern boundaries were not the outcome of actions that were pursued at one spatial level, be it local, regional, national, transnational, or global, but existed at multiple negotiated levels at once. Secondly, the method prompts historians: a) to not predefine “the” singular border of the region under scrutiny, but to follow historical actors as they shifted from one course of action to another in dealing with these multiple borders; and b) to question what transcended the boundaries of a region instead of highlighting how they separated one “unique” area from the next. In doing so, transregional history helps to reformulate questions about territorial boundaries, to make novel heuristic choices in research where and when borders matter, and, hence, to improve our understanding of transboundary historical change.

Link to full text: Soent et al. – Transregional History



The institutionalization of border controls

B. De Ridder, The institutionalization of Habsburg-Dutch border controls during the Eighty Years War, Philostrato. Revista de historia y arte, extraordinary nr. (2018), p. 55-76.

This article discusses the origins and institutionalization of border controls during the Eighty Years War in the Low Countries (ca. 1568-1648). The Habsburg-Dutch border that was created during this conflict was a brand new territorial separation, stemming from the secession of the Dutch Republic from the wider Habsburg Empire. The novelty of this border meant that already during the war the two governments needed to be creative in their handling of it and that they needed to develop several new strategies of border management. These strategies for controlling the border were however not developed as part of a centralized program of state formation. Rather, the two governments in Brussels/Madrid and The Hague engaged in a process of learning that involved many other actors as well. By looking into three specific types of such interaction, this article illustrates the learning process that accompanied the installation of systems for passage control in the Habsburg-Dutch borderlands.

Link to text: http://philostrato.revistahistoriayarte.es/index.php/moll/issue/view/5/showToc


Two frontier bishops

Two frontier bishops. Or how Cambrai (arch)bishops implemented Trent.

Admittedly, we share a vice in our research group: tracing major historical developments back to the crucial node of the ecclesiastical province of Cambrai in the early modern era. This time, Tridentine Reform in both the Low Countries and France seems to have been promoted by the then serving (arch)bishop in Cambrai. Two bishops of noble descent, Robert de Croÿ and Maximilien de Berghes, engaged in (re)defining the frontiers of the medieval faith they and their families professed, helping to refashion Catholicism in a Tridentine pan-European style. Starting from the Council’s first period, but especially after its solemn closure, the (arch)bishop in Cambrai engaged in organizing synods and provincial councils, promulgating and editing statutes and engaging in visitations, trying to imitate and emulate the powerful Cardinal de Lorraine, serving as archbishop of neighboring Reims.

Enjoyed the first article here, ‘Le Borromée des anciens Pays-Bas‘? Then make sure to read the two following articles as well:

V. Soen & A. Van de Meulebroucke, ‘Vanguard Tridentine Reform in the Habsburg Netherlands. The episcopacy of Robert de Croÿ, bishop of Cambrai (1519-56)’, in: V. Soen, D. Vanysacker and W. François (eds.), Church, Censorship and Reform in the early modern Habsburg Netherlands (Bibliothèque de la Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique 101), Turnhout, Brepols Publishers, 2017, 125-144.

V. Soen, ‘The Council of Trent and the Preconditions of the Dutch Revolt (1563-1566)’, in W. François and V. Soen (eds.), The Council of Trent : Reform and Controversy in Europe and beyond (1540-1700), Vandenhoeck&Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2017, vol. 2, 255-278.


Le Borromée des anciens Pays-Bas

V. Soen & 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 99 (n° 419) (2017) 41-65.

Maximilien de Berghes (1518-1570), évêque (1556-1559), et par la suite, archevêque de Cambrai (1559-1570) prend une place non négligeable dans la littérature sur l’église des anciens Pays-Bas du XVIe siècle. En 1564, Berghes prit l’initiative pour convoquer un conseil des évêques locaux au sujet de la publication du Concile de Trente, bien qu’il fut jamais un prélat ni une personnalité de la dimension de Borromée. Il le fit à nouveau en 1565, en étant le premier dans les Pays-Bas à organiser un concile provincial pour la mise en place des décrets de Trente, imitant ainsi son collègue et compétiteur de Reims, le fameux cardinal de Lorraine. Plutôt qu’un Borromée local de la Contre-Réforme, Maximilien était simplement un évêque dont le rayon d’action était avant tout déterminé par le contexte transrégional, à la frontière entre les Pays-Bas des Habsbourg et la France.

Link to text: https://lirias.kuleuven.be/bitstream/123456789/561675/5/Soen-Hollevoet.pdf


RSA New Orleans 2018

Borders, borders everywhere… at the RSA New Orleans 2018

Borders, borders everywhere! It is one of the subtitles in Ben Kaplan’s Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe, but it also applies to the upcoming annual conference of the Renaissance Society of America in New Orleans. We highlighted already these three panels on the program #RenSA18


Thu, March 22, 2:00 to 3:30pm

Harrah’s Hotel, 2nd Level – Satchmo Room


Catholic Empires, Real and Planned

 Giada Pizzoni (Warwick) British Catholic Merchants: Global Trading Networks and a British National Identity, 1660–1705

This paper examines the ways in which Catholics moved beyond religious divisions and across national borders in order to sustain British trade. I argue that Catholics played an important part in the early modern commercial expansion. Although Catholicism in the British Isles implied marginalisation, it was instrumental in fostering trade networks, securing successful economic strategies with Protestant partners. By surveying British Catholics’ involvement in Atlantic and Mediterranean trade, I argue that they secured social integration through economic inclusion thereby defying the stereotype of a prosecuted community. Furthermore, I will challenge the widely accepted notion in modern historiography of a Protestant national identity constructed against a Catholic ‘other’. I argue that Catholics fostered networks of inter-faith trade within an emerging Protestant empire, fundamentally sustaining British commercial expansion.

 Violet Soen (Leuven), A Catholic International, or Transregional Catholicism in Cambrai (1559–1659)?

Reformation Studies have established a ‘Calvinist International’ branching out through protestant exiles under persecution, yet over the last years A. Walsham has pointed out similar processes emanating from Catholic English exiles settling on the continent. If we have come to acknowledge the importance of English exiles arriving in Douai and Saint Omer, buttressing a ‘Catholic International’, we still know virtually nothing about their interactions with the host society in the ecclesiastical province of Cambrai, as well as about their exchanges with exiles from France or more northern parts of the Low Countries. Through the lens of print culture in Cambrai, an online database developed in Leuven provides now the necessary evidence to unravel the transregional dynamics in this border region. Hence, this paper addresses the impact of the ‘Catholic International’ on a local, regional and global level, and it will show that the melting pot of Cambrai spurred a transregional Catholicism.

Eric Durot (York) A French Renaissance Dream: The Franco-British Empire of the Valois

This paper aims to demonstrate how the French kings not only challenged directly the Habsburg during the Renaissance period, but also wanted to create a Franco-British Empire. By the union of the crowns of France and Scotland (the dauphin Francis married Mary Stuart), Henry II tried to rule Scotland, considering the Scots as his subjects. Scotland was also a way to gain England: with Mary Stuart, great-grand-daughter of Henry VII Tudor, the French king claimed to the English throne. However, in 1559-60, the ‘Scottish Reformation Rebellion’, supported by England, broke the French dream during the reign of Francis II and Mary Stuart. This transnational and politico-religious approach highlights the 1550s-60s turning point and helps to understand the outbreak of the Wars of Religion, the Scottish revolt being in fact the first French war of Religion.


Thu, March 22, 4:00 to 5:30pm

Harrah’s Hotel, 2nd Level – Fulton Street Salon II


Imagined Territories: Constructions and Representations of Territories and Boundaries in the Late Medieval Low Countries

Mario Damen (Amsterdam), Listing Space in the Late Medieval Low Countries

How did late medieval princes, nobles and urban elites perceive and represent the territory they were living in? What was their concept and perception of political space before cartography and state formation turned boundaries and territories into more fixed geographical entities? I will formulate an answer to these questions by examining a range of different sources concerning the different principalities of the Low Countries, in the period 1350-1550. I will focus on different kinds of lists, ideal sources for approaching space before the availability of reliable maps. In the first part of this paper, I will draw mainly on administrative lists, since it is the administration that constructs borders and defines a jurisdiction. In contrast, in the second part of my paper I will analyse heraldic lists and compendia. Heraldry was omnipresent in the late medieval and early modern world and was a powerful visual tool to represent space.

Kim Overlaet (Amsterdam), The Perception of Borders in a Changing Territory: The Late Medieval Low Countries through Foreign Eyes

In the premodern period, the Burgundian and Habsburg Low Countries can only to a certain extent be considered a political unity. Indeed, the autonomy of the principalities, lordships and towns was protected by extensive rights and privileges, which all new rulers had to swear to uphold. In the past decades, scholars have paid increasing attention to the processes of identity-formation in these smaller territorial units. Yet, they tend to focus on the ‘local’ point of view. The question central to this paper is how foreign travellers visiting the Low Countries perceived and represented the Burgundian and Habsburg composite state. How did they experience the physical, political and cultural boundaries between, for example, Flanders and Brabant, or between Antwerp and Brussels? In order to answer these questions, I will analyse the travel narratives written by Pero Tafur (1436-39) and Lodovico Guicciardini (1567), in comparison to contemporary regional chronicles and inauguration charters.

Arend Elias Oostindiër (Amsterdam): Territory as Practice: The Incessant Construction of the Late Medieval Duchy of Brabant

In order to understand late medieval territories, it is vital not only to be concerned with perception and representation, but also with their practical construction on a day-to-day basis. Following Stuart Elden, “territory” may be conceptualised as a bundle of economic, strategic, legal and technological factors, but it is still unclear how actual late medieval territories were produced by practices of concrete actors. Taking the duchy of Brabant as a case study, I will discuss how territory was continuously and consciously shaped by the duke in negotiation with urban elites and nobility. An analysis of administrative sources as the accounts of the ducal receiver-general, and of the physical presence of the duke and his messengers clarifies how Brabant as a territory was made suitable for centralising ducal governance with the consent of his self-conscious subjects. This balances conceptual and representational questions of territory with a more practical approach.


Sat, March 24, 9:00 to 10:30am,

Hilton Riverside, 3rd Level – Commerce Room


Cartography and the Early Modern Archive

Karen-edis Barzman, Binghamton University, SUNY Cartography and Information Management in the Venetian State Archive

In 1460 Venice commanded governors in its territories to submit representations of cities, fortresses, and regions under their jurisdictions, making it the first state to invest in visualizing geodata and delivering them at a glance, in portable formats. The intention was to be systematic in building a map collection, but the process was uneven. This paper examines that trajectory, focusing on hand-drawn maps of borderlands and the modalities of representation they introduced. Produced by a new kind of technocrat (military engineer), the maps combined direct observation and local knowledge with skilled draftsmanship, mixing features of landscape painting with chorography. Unprecedented in information management, they also called for a new kind of literacy for a synchronized reading of incommensurate data-files (text and picture) in nested formats. I address the increasing dependence on such maps in the management of the Venetian state and the successive filing systems in which many were buried amidst all the paper.

Natalie Rothman, University of Toronto: “Revisti Dalmati confini”: Dragomans, Documentation, and Diplomacy in the Dalmatian Borderlands

This paper explores the entanglement of Venetian and Ottoman spatial knowledge-production in the Dalmatian borderlands (late sixteenth to early eighteenth centuries). It asks how the Dalmatian border was gradually fixed—both materially and epistemologically—through the efforts of dragomans (diplomatic interpreters) who shuttled across the region, commensurating Venetian and Istanbulite metropolitan understandings of sovereign space and constituting the archives thereof. Following dragomans’ itineraries and documentary practices across Ottoman and Venetian institutions, the paper traces border negotiations as they developed in the chanceries of the Governor General in Zara and the Venetian bailo in Istanbul, foregrounding the centrality of dragomans’ specialized knowledge to both these archival sites. Exploring the practices commensurating Venetian and Ottoman forms of political sense-making in Dalmatia, the paper brings together multiple scales of analysis, from hyper-local skirmishes that typified the borderlands to large-scale inter-imperial dynamics in which local conflicts were inevitably implicated, and which they also helped shape.

Luca Scholz (Stanford), Mapping Disputes in the Old Reich

The use of manuscript maps was widespread in territorial disputes throughout early modern Europe. In the Holy Roman Empire, maps were often produced during lawsuits, to spare the court a direct inspection of contested sites. Administrators used maps to support written documentation when a spatial situation was too complex to be described with words. A substantial proportion of these maps were produced in the context of border disputes. From the sixteenth century onwards, the use of manuscript maps as evidence in disputes over ownership and rights over land increased significantly and remained important throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Leading administrators and scholars agreed that maps offered a more efficient instrument for surveying territorial prerogatives than the often anecdotal reports produced by local officials. Showcasing several manuscript maps, this paper discusses the use of mapping in territorial disputes in different parts of the Old Reich and their value for historical research.


Through Frosted Glass

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

By Heleen Wyffels – this text appeared originally on womenandgender.wordpress.com


[…] 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 heleen.wyffels@kuleuven.be. 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.