Colleges of Douai

Printing at the Frontier

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.

In 1559 most of the French-speaking provinces in the south of the Habsburg Low Countries were united in the new Ecclesiastical Province of Cambrai. Establishing enduring and prolific printing businesses in this region had proved an extremely difficult task ever since the start of the 16th century. Several booksellers were active in many towns of the Cambrai province, but a local book production did not come off the ground due to a combination of warfare and the dominance of major and nearby typographic centres (most notably Paris and Antwerp). Yet, from about 1590 new printers settled in the province, leading to a significant increase of the book production. This article argues that, besides the context of tense peace and the relative regression of the Antwerp and Paris production, also the emergence of a transregional book production in the region itself should be taken into account in explaining this golden age of printing in the early 17th century. It appears that in these years, the local book world could finally take advantage of the previously judged detrimental position in between Europe’s major typographic centres. Two case studies will explore how the location at several political, linguistic and cultural borders at once, contributed to the flourishing of the region’s book world. A first part of the article focusses on the strategy of massively and systematically reprinting books originally issued in France in this part of the Habsburg Low Countries. Subsequently, the hundreds of English editions that came off the province’s presses and that were intended for British Catholic communities still living in the British Isles are also considered a factor contributing to the golden age of printing in Cambrai.


Sustaining the Munster Peace

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 (1), 35-53.


With the end of the Eighty Years War in the Low Countries, the Spanish-Habsburg monarchy and the Dutch Republic needed to transform their war-torn frontier into a peaceful international border. The 1648 Peace of Munster therefore decreed that a Chambre Mi-Partie would be created, a court of arbitration intended to settle the remaining territorial issues and to resolve all peace-related conflicts between the Habsburg Netherlands and the United Provinces. This article argues that, in contrast to many other early modern attempts at arbitration, the court functioned relatively well and demonstrates how a transnational organisation could aid the peaceful maintenance of a new border. One of the main reasons that the Chambre Mi-Partie managed to assume this role was its structure as a transnational legal institution. Being composed of eight judges from each country – men who worked well together and took their neutrality seriously –, the court bridged the new divide. The court served as an important alternative to diplomatic conflict resolution and ensured that the numerous small border conflicts of the post-war period did not spill over into renewed violence

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Early Modern Peace

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


Between the academic fields of International Relations and History there currently exist few real crossovers, despite the fact that both disciplines would benefit from an improved working relationship. As this is especially the case with regard to the pre-modern past, this article offers a new perspective on the possibilities of increased interaction in the field of Early Modern peace-making. Rather than setting up an abstract debate on how the different methodologies of IR and History might be combined, the text provides a hands-on example of how such disciplinary hybridity could work. By analysing the specific historical case of the 1598–1618 Pax Hispanica through the analytical lens of Hedley Bull’s International Society, it is highlighted what can be gained from such an experiment. By taking several steps that fuse the key elements of historical and IR research – including the contextualisation of Bull’s theory, the categorisation of historical structures, and the re-assessment of the actual peace treaties – new elements about the occurrence of the Pax Hispanica and the mechanics of International Society are revealed. Nevertheless, these results form only a starting point for further discussion about the value of such increased interdisciplinary research.

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Embattled Territory

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


The classical view of science in the Spanish Netherlands harbours implicit assumptions which need to be reconsidered in the light of contemporary historiography. Approaching the history of science from the perspective of the circulation of knowledge, this book indicates new paths of research furthering the integration of the history of science into wider, general history. To accomplish this aim the book raises three sets of questions. The first question concerns the role of cities in the production and transmission of knowledgde and skills in the Spanish Netherlands, with the Southern Netherlands being home to one of the densest urban networks in the world. In a second step, the book discusses how the Southern Netherlands were entangled with the rest of the globe through the Spanish Empire, and the Atlantic world in particular. How did these Iberian connections shape the circulation of knowledge in the Spanish Netherlands? Thirdly, did the definition and nature of knowledge change in the Spanish Netherlands and how was this related to processes of political and religious transformation. Focussing on urban knowledge, Iberian connections and the politics of knowledge, this book offers a new framework for the history of science in the Spanish Netherlands.

With contributions of Sven Dupré, Geert Vanpaemel, Raoul De Kerf, Bert De Munck, Annelies De Bie, Pieter Martens, Dirk Van de Vijver, Vincent Van Roy, Johan Verberckmoes, Werner Thomas, Florike Egmond, Piet Lombaerde, Arjan Van Dixhoorn, Ralph Dekoninck, Agnès Guiderdoni, Krista De Jonge, Maarten Delbeke, Christina Göttler, and Tine Meganck.

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Benchmarking the Past

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).


In the historiography of the Dutch Revolt and the Eighty Years War, scholars have focused principally on the growing differences between the Habsburg Netherlands and the Dutch Republic. In order to explain the eventual separation of the ‘two’ Netherlands, it has been established that the political culture of both countries increasingly grew apart and so prevented reunification. Still, this did not mean that the diplomatic vocabulary of these states no longer contained any similarities. Throughout the Eighty Years War both governments relied on analogous notions of tradition, custom and common practice to legitimize their point of view. Such notions, together with their negative counterpart of innovation, were enshrined in a juridical language that also offered a point of convergence. In turn, these shared claims to history provided a common repertoire that diplomats from both sides deployed in their arguments. As such, benchmarking the past offered a communal framework from which to start and maintain conversation between the separated Netherlands.

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logo red columnaria

XIIth International Conference on the History of the Iberic Monarchies

To reconcile and to reincorporate: Discourse, ceremonies & practices in and beyond the Iberic Monarchies

Réconcilier et réincorporer: Discours, cérémonies et pratiques dans et autour des monarchies ibériques

Reconciliación y reincorporación: Discursos, ceremonias y practicas en las Monarquías Ibéricas


Valenciennes/Kortrijk, 24-26 November 2016

Schedule: Programme XII Jornadas


In recent years historiography has been slowly acknowledging the potential of civil societies to restore concord after profound divisions. It also has uncovered the pacification strategies of authorities to reconcile and reincorporate individuals and social groups after periods of contestation and revolt. These complex processes are crucial to better understand the history of the Iberic monarchies, which have been able to develop a long-term government despite many crises of different origin and outlook.

Hence, this conference will be focused on the themes of reconciliation and reincorporation from following four perspectives, inviting papers on the subjects listed below:

Words, discourses and emotions: semantics and sentiments

The restauration of civil concord and the obedience to the ruler was shaped by different words and discourses, which on their turn, became connoted with a wide range of emotions. This panel aims to unravel semantics and sentiments behind early modern reconciliation and reincorporation.

Negotiating reconciliation: promotors and strategies

If reconciliation is often perceived as a process emanating from early modern rulers, in practice it is more often negotiated by many other actors, such as local institutions, local elites, governmental bodies etc. What were their formal and informal strategies to pursue peace and concord?

Making reconciliation work: agents and mediators, processes and forms

Peace-making implied more than just signing a treaty, often a long pacification process aimed to put into effect the clauses and to spur the recently concluded reconciliation through the means of ceremonies, festivities, visual representations etc. Again, agents and mediators were necessary to spread and enact the peace message in the societies of the Ancient Regime.

In the margin of reconciliations: the undecided and excluded

If reconciliation parted on a federative discourse, it excluded formally or informally individuals, or it risked hostile reactions and vetoes from opponents. Rather than presenting reconciliation as a fact, as done by the stakeholders involved, this panel will define early modern reconciliation as an open-ended process with an always uncertain and unstable outcome.


The conference volume published by Brepols Publishers in the new series Habsburg Worlds will be in English and French. During the conference one can also present in Spanish, Italian and Dutch.


Organisation committee :

Yves Junot (Université de Valenciennes) and Violet Soen (KU Leuven)

Coordinators of the nodo Borgonña-Flandes of Red Columnaria

Academic committee:

Tamar Herzog (Harvard University), Marie-Laure Legay (Université Lille3), Guido Marnef (Universiteit Antwerpen), José Javier Ruiz Ibáñez (Universidad de Murcia), Gaetano Sabatini (Università degli Studi Roma Tre), Werner Thomas (KU Leuven), René Vermeir (Universiteit Gent)



Violet Soen

A Catholic International, or Transregional Catholicism?

Lecture: ‘A Catholic International, or Transregional Catholicism? Print, Exiles and Hosts in and beyond Cambrai (1559-1659)’

By professor Violet Soen

University of St. Andrews Reformation Studies Institute Seminar, 18 February 2016 (

Reformation Studies have long argued for a ‘Calvinist International’ branching out through exiles under persecution, yet over the last years Alexandra 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’ in the early modern era, 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 lecture will discern 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.

Seminars take place at 5.15 in the New Seminar Room, St John’s House, 69 South Street, University of St. Andrews


Report Masterclass Professor Herzog

Masterclass with professor Tamar Herzog, 25 January 2016

By Bram De Ridder

On 25 January, the transnational research team was honoured to receive professor Tamar Herzog (Harvard University, in Leuven for a masterclass on the topic of early modern borders and boundaries. During this session, we first and foremost discussed the conceptual and methodological development of transregional history, as well as where this concept fits in the wider spectre of historiography. Secondly, in a large section on border management during the Eighty Years War, professor Herzog elaborated on the constructed nature of early modern borders and their essentially negotiated nature. Drawing useful connections between how borders were created, perceived, and transformed in Europe and beyond, one particular research theme that appeared as requiring further attention was that of ‘the border in and as a part of society’. The masterclass could further deal with this issue as we subsequently presented our projects on the printing press in the ecclesiastical province of Cambrai, and on the implications of the numerous Spanish-Flemish marriages in the seventeenth century. Especially interesting here was the discussion on the layered nature of such marital alliances, if only because this type of cross-border weddings is usually studied from only one particular perspective, either at the level of the family or with the wider Empire in mind.

We again thank professor Herzog for her thoughtful remarks during the masterclass, and will soon present some of the texts that have been reworked with her advice!




Lecture: the Road to Santiago

Prof. Johan Verberckmoes, “THE IRISH ON THE ROAD TO SANTIAGO, FROM THE 13TH TO THE 21ST CENTURY”, LCIS lecture series in Irish studies.

18 February, at 8 p.m., Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe (Janseniusstraat 1, 3000 Leuven).

Prompted by The Irish Society of the Friends of St James in Dublin, this lecture sketches the participation of the Irish over the centuries in the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrim’s voyage to the tomb of St James at Compostela in Galicia, northwestern Spain. Sailing (and nowadays flying) to Bordeaux, the Irish connected in southern France to established pilgrim’s routes that brought them over the Pyrenees to Compostela. Or they preferred the sea voyage to A Coruña, from where the journey over land is a mere 60 km. Two hospitals founded in Dublin and Drogheda in the early 13th century testify to this long-standing participation of the Irish in the Camino trail. But it is a wobbly history. The Irish have left few traces in historical records. What the Camino has meant for the Irish people, especially in the 20th century, is only surfacing now. Since the 1990s, Irish interest for the Camino has soared, which makes it more than ever a living history.

This lecture is part of a lecture series on various aspects of Irish Studies, organised the Leuven Centre for Irish Studies. The lecture is free and open to all. For further information, contact Elke D’hoker (


Barriers and Borders: Report (2)

Conference Report of the Vth Arenberg Conference for History, sessions 3-4

By Sophie Verreyken, Alexander Soetaert, and Bram De Ridder

While the first two sessions had been devoted to borders within the Holy Roman Empire and the borders of the Low Countries, the starting session on Friday shifted its focus to the borders of the Kingdom of France. In the first presentation, Patricia Subirade dealt with the Franche-Comté. Until 1678 this region belonged to the Spanish Habsburgs, despite being stuck between the Kingdom of France and the Swiss Confederation. The region not only formed a political but also a religious frontier, as it bordered some Calvinist cantons. Professor Subirade highlighted that the Franche-Comté cultivated a strong Catholic identity, which, for instance, was characterized by the importance of Marian devotions. On the one side, the border with the Swiss confederation, in fact a range of hills, was a closed border, marked by a concentration of Catholic chapels. On the other side, however, she discovered manifold transregional relations between the Franche-Comté and more remote Catholic regions in Switzerland, despite being separated by Protestant cantons. In particular, Catholic painters, sculptors and engravers from the Franche-Comté were active in Swiss Fribourg, inducing the transfer of artistic knowledge and techniques.

CUPtThZXIAECJbIThe next two presentations focused on the border between the Habsburg Netherlands and the French kingdom. In a joint presentation, Yves Junot and Marie Kervyn discussed the military, economical and religious aspects of this border, stretching from Luxembourg to the coast. They pointed to the existence of fascinating a protection system formed by fortress-churches and underground hiding-places where the local communities sheltered during wartime. While towns were equipped with walls, it was in fact almost impossible to guarantee a global protection of het border in rural regions. Both historians also dealt with the difficulties that arose in a some parishes of the (Habsburg) Artois County which depended on the French bishop of Boulogne and the integration of foreigners in the communities along the border, a process that often seems to have been facilitated by the intervention of the local inhabitants. As such, Junot and Kervyn contended that there existed a key difference between the rural and the urban experience of the border.

Lastly, Alexander Soetaert discussed the development of a transregional book production in the ecclesiastical province of Cambrai, bordering France. During the sixteenth century, printers had faced difficulties to maintain profitable printing businesses there. In the first decades of the following century, however, a golden age of the book production came about. This was made possible by the relative decline of the Antwerp dominance of the book market in the Habsburg Netherlands, the influx of skilled labor from the Brabant metropolis and the financial support of local town governments in the Cambrai region. Yet, also the fact that printers in frontier towns such as Douai, Arras or Cambrai now took advantage of their presence at the border significantly contributed to the success. A considerable part of the production in these towns consisted of reprints (in a sense also counterfeits) of French books. This not only added to the profits of the local book world, but also facilitated the transfer of French and even Spanish and Italian innovations in Catholic literature. The very location of the Cambrai province made it into an intermediary zone in the transregional circulation of Catholic literature.

CUQY0BRU8AA-5H8The last session dealt with Iberian borders. Sophie Verreyken researches Hispano-Flemish families in the seventeenth century Southern Netherlands, studying the borders of the Habsburg Empire mostly as an internal barrier. Throughout the centuries borders were frequently crossed by migrating families, and despite the physical dislocation, not all families successfully integrated or even planned a long-term stay ‘abroad’. Investigating the concept of a transregional marriage not only as a strategy of economic, political and religious integration but also one of dynastic loyalty, she illuminated how on the one hand the Habsburg dynasty tried to maintain an indirect grip on distant regions of the Habsburg Empire, while on the other local elites profited from closer ties to a distant monarch. In recounting the history of two dukes of Aarschot from the noble house of Arenberg, she demonstrated how the dynastic mixed marriages of this family functioned as an indirect strategy of loyalty on both sides of the relationship.

As the closing presentation of the conference, Fernando Chavarría discussed how the current – still strongly nationalistic – debates about historical border formation focusing on Louis XIV’s foreign policy of a “politique de réunions” hardly take into account the tangible impact on border communities themselves. He illustrated this issue by presenting the case of the river Bidasoa separating France and Spain in the north-western Pyrenees. The region never enjoyed a high defensive priority from Louis XIV’s perspective, but was nevertheless subjected to brutal instances of violence – even from 1659 onwards – when the two towns on either side of the river clashed. The ensuing discussion raised interesting questions about the agency of rivers and mountains, neatly linking his case to the previous talks by Luca Scholz and others. Indeed, by again stressing the constructed nature of early modern barriers and boundaries, Chavarría’s presentation captured one of the core trope’s of the conference: that borders are, first and foremost, depended on man’s ideas and actions.