Fifth RefoRC Conference: Plenary Speakers

LOGO ReforcWith the Fifth RefoRC Conference steadily approaching, we are pleased to announce the names of the plenary speakers. The following six scholars will present their take on the transregional and cross-border aspects of the Reformation(s):

Angela Berlis (Bern): Transregional Interactions between Jansenists, Roman Catholics and Protestants in Seventeenth-Century Northern Europe.

Michel Boeglin (Montpellier): Réforme et circulation des idées réformées sur les terres du roi d’Espagne au XVIe siècle. Le cas de Constantino de la Fuente.

Barbara Diefendorf (Boston): Localizing a Transregional Catholic Reformation: How Spanish and Italian Orders Became French.

Grazyna Jurkowlaniec (Warsaw): Printed Images Crossing Borders: Vehicles of Dissemination of Artistic Models, Markers of Confessional Identities, and Instruments in Political Agendas.

Nicolas Standaert (Leuven): European Catholicism Shaped by the Encounter with China.

Alexandra Walsham (Cambridge): Religious Ventriloquism: Translation, Cultural Exchange and the English Reformations.

Should you wish to participate, short paper proposals dealing with religious reform in the broad 16th and 17th centuries are still welcome until 15 February 2015. See the registration form at

Identy and Identities

Identity and Identities

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.


Debates on identity and identity formation have haunted the social sciences over the last several decades, underlining the complex relationships between individuals, societies, and territories. The contributions to this volume update historical scholarship on the question of belonging in a region in constant reconfiguration, that of the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and the north of France) in the era before the emergence of national identities in the nineteenth century.

This book draws from a variety of legal, literary, archival and visual sources to capture the multiple identities that continuously formed and altered relationships between individuals and collectives. It also details the interaction between the construction of territorial boundaries and the question of belonging.

La question des identités est au carrefour des sciences sociales ; elle se renouvelle continuellement depuis quelques décennies, en éclairant les liens complexes existant entre individu, société et territoire. Les contributions de cet ouvrage collectif proposent une vision actualisée et synthétisée des derniers développements de cette recherche historique appliquée aux questions d’appartenances, dans un territoire en perpétuelle (re)construction, les anciens Pays-Bas (Belgique, Pays-Bas, Luxembourg et nord de la France), avant l’essor des identités nationales du XIXe siècle

Le livre s’attache à réinterroger les méthodes d’analyse des appartenances en fonction de sources multiples, judiciaires, législatives, littéraires ou figuratives. il met l’accent sur les identités multiples qui façonnent et recomposent sans cesse le rapport entre individu et collectivité. Il détaille enfin les interactions entre la construction des frontières territoriales et la question des appartenances.


Announcing Transregional Reformations

LOGO ReforcRecently the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies and the Faculty of Arts of the KU Leuven have released more information on their 2015 RefoRC Conference, including the call for papers. Organized from 7 to 9 May 2015 in Leuven, the theme of this conference will be ‘Crossing Borders: Transregional Reformations':

‘In recent decades, the field of transnational/transregional history has yielded novel insights: the constant movement of persons, goods, ideas, books and images across boundaries induced a transfer of culture and knowledge shaping the early modern world much more profoundly than previously thought. Although alert to the universal aspect of religion, theologians and (church) historians are only starting to apply this methodology to the study of religious reform in the sixteenth century.

The conference aims to emphasize the shift in the field of Reformation Studies to a cross-border and multi-confessional approach: How were religious exile, confessional identity and transregional transfers connected? What were the routes and networks of religious reform, along and across borders? How did the printing press support transregional exchange? In what ways did global, transregional and local dimensions of religious reform interact?
The Fifth RefoRC Conference Leuven explores transregional dimensions of the Catholic and Protestant Reformations in the early modern period.’

For those wishing to participate, more information can be found under the upcoming events page of this website, or at the webpage of RefoRC. Short paper proposals need to be submitted via the registration form before 15 February 2015.

RSA 2014

Launching our website at RSA 2014 (NY)

We launched our website at the Renaissance Society of America in New York City last week! It was the largest edition of their annual meetings so far, with a significant participation of European scholars, turning the experience into a true transatlantic adventure. A small but significant part of the papers paid tribute to the ‘transnational turn’ in the humanities: chiefly literary scholars seized upon the concept to map the adaptation and circulation of texts cross national boundaries in early modern times. Here, the concepts of ‘transnational history’ proved useful to approach literary and intellectual history alike, thinking outside the box of borders. Only three sessions were specifically devoted to transregional movements in a social and political perspective. They all focused specifically borders and borderlands, discussing the fate of the Polish-Lithuanian monarchy, the Holy Roman Empire and the Low Countries. These sessions inaugurated a more critical approach to crossborder circulation, showing in fact how people in early modern Europe might have crossed borders constantly, but also stuck to them in order to defend their own power or profit. It is the study of this interplay between the crossing of borders and the erection of barriers that we pursue in our research group at KU Leuven. To be continued (on our website)…

Violet Soen


Upcoming events:

External events:

09 May 2018: Mobilité(s) à l’époque moderne et de nos jours. Regards croisés (National Library of Belgium, Brussels).

30-31 May 2018: Nouveaux regards sur les saisies patrimoniales en Europe à l’époque de la Révolution française (KIK, Brussels).

Past Events:

22 March 2018: RSA 2018, session on Catholic Empires, Real and Planned

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

12-14 October 2017: Violet Soen,‘Roundtable: Religious Refugees in History and in Future’, LEST-conference.

28-30 June 2017: Refugees in the early modern period (Emden).

13-14 June 2017: International Summit on Borders (Army and Navy Club, Washington DC)

26-27 May 2017: Les Croÿ et la frontière (Montcornet).

23 May 2017: Doctoral defence Alexander Soetaert (Universiteitshallen, Leuven).

10-12 May 2017: Violet Soen, ‘Refugees in early modern Borderlands: encounter of radicalization’, RefoRC-conference: The Rise of Pluralism (Wittenberg).

May 2017: Werner Tomas, ‘La represión del protestantismo en España’, La monarchie catholique et son empire atlantique. Nouvelle approche de l’Histoire de l’art (Casa de Veláquez, Museo del Prado, Harvard University en de Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid).

6-8 April 2017: COST-workshop: Concord and Discord in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe

23-24 February 2017: Winning back with Books and Prints. At the Heart of Catholic Reformation in the Low Countries, Liège. 

Alexander Soetaert, A French book in the Low Countries: Matthieu de Launoy’s ‘Déclaration et réfutation’ and its reissues in Douai, Cambrai and Antwerp

Johan Verberckmoes, L’hilarité chrétienne au temps des Archiducs Albert et Isabelle

Heleen Wyffels, Assessing survival rates of widow-printers’ businesses in sixteenth-century Antwerp)

7 February 2017: Bram De Ridder, Passport policy: administering the Habsburg-Dutch border through travel permits (Harvard History Seminar, Harvard University).

11 January 2017: Bram De Ridder, De grens tussen de Nederlanden: haar ontstaan en beheer tijdens de Tachtigjarige Oorlog (Henri Mastboom Lectures West-Brabants Archief, Roosdaal).

24-26 November 2016: XIIth International Conference on the History of the Iberic Monarchies. To reconcile and to reincorporate: Discourse, ceremonies & practices in and beyond the Iberic Monarchies. (Valenciennes/Courtrai).

18-20 August 2016: Sixteenth Century Society Conference (Bruges). (

Session 75 (18 August): Session with Sophie Verreyken on princely entries and funerals in the Early Modern Low Countries.

Session 208 (19 August): Session organized by Violet Soen and Alexander Soetaert on Catholic renewal in and beyond Cambrai.

18 February 2016: Prof. Johan Verberckmoes, The Irish on the Road to Santiago, from the 13th to the 21st century, LCIS lecture series in Irish studies (Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe). (

18 February 2016: Prof. Violet Soen, A Catholic International, or Transregional Catholicism? Print, Exiles and Hosts in and beyond Cambrai (1559-1659) (University of St. Andrews Reformation Studies Institute Seminar), (

25 January 2016: Masterclass with professor Tamar Herzog (Harvard University). (

19-20 November 2015: Barriers and borders in and Beyond the Habsburg World. A Transregional Perspective (Faculty of Arts, KU Leuven). (

6 November 2015: Post-Graduate Seminar Sophie Verreyken (Faculty of Arts, KU Leuven).

20 October 2015: Post-Graduate Seminar Alexander Soetaert (Faculty of Arts, KU Leuven).

7-9 May 2015: Transregional Reformations (RefoRC, Leuven). (

26-28 March 2015: The Annual Renaissance Society of America Conference (Berlin, Renaissance Society of America).

Session 27 March: Transregional Networking in the Habsburg Netherlands. (

27 February 2015: Dag van het Onderzoek (VNVNG, Nijmegen)

4-7 November 2014: BRIT XIV: The border, a source of innovation/La frontière, source d’innovation, (Arras, Mons, Lille). (

Session 62: Borderlands as laboratories for religious and political change in the early modern era (

The Annual Renaissance Society of America Conference, 27-29 March 2014,  New York, Renaissance Society of America. (

Session 30333: Border Management: Politics, Law, and Security in Early Modern Borderlands.

Harvard Graduate Student Conference on International History (Con-IH): Sources in International History, 14 March 2014, Cambridge (Ma), Harvard University.

Fronteras: Representaciónes, integraciones y conflictos entre Europa y America, s. XVI-XX, Congreso Internacional, 20-22 June 2013, Rome, Roma III and Red Columnaria.

La frontière franco-belge. Une rencontre entre historiens de l’Ancien Régime et de l’histoire contemporaine: Journée d’étude, 30 November 2012, Courtrai, KU Leuven – KULAK.  (

L’identité au pluriel. Jeux en enjeux des appartenances aux anciens Pays-Bas (14-16e siècle), 19-21 April 2012, Valenciennes.

Second session: Identités et altérités autour de la frontière France-Pays-Bas


BRIT XIV (4-7/11/2014)

BRIT XIV:The border, a source of innovation/La frontière, source d’innovation.


BRIT (Border Regions in Transition ) is an international network of researchers and practitioners dealing with issues on borders. About every other year, this network carries out international conferences on university sites established on both sides of a border. The first BRIT symposium was held in 1994 on the German-Polish border. In 2012, for the first time , BRIT was hosted in Asia , in Japan and South Korea. In 2014 , 20 years after the first international conference, BRIT XIV will be held on the Franco- Belgian border.

The objective of this conference is, with a transdisciplinary approach (geography, political science, economics, sociology, anthropology, history), to contribute to a collective reflection on innovations related to border and cross-border dynamics. BRIT XIV “the border – a source of innovation” aims to demonstrate how the border, both as a concept and as an object resulting from the implementation of regional strategies can be understood, in all its forms, as a source of innovation within the different societies.

At BRIT XIV, the Transregional Research Team from the University of Leuven will organize a session on Borderlands as laboratories for religious and political change in the early modern era.


Exile encounters in borderlands. Transregional Catholicism in the Archdiocese of Cambrai (1559-1659).

Prof. dr. Violet Soen (KU Leuven)

Prof. dr. Johan Verberckmoes (KU Leuven)

The Archdiocese of Cambrai is a highly interesting test case for the field of borderland studies and migration studies alike: since its erection in 1559 at the southern border of the Habsburg Low Countries, it hosted Catholic refugees from different regions, such as the British Isles, Ireland, France and eventually the Dutch Republic. Exactly a century later, it disintegrated politically in the aftermath of the Peace of the Pyrenees in 1659. The question is how this migration affected the host society, and transformed the religious conditions in these borderlands. In fact, religious exile created an exceptional situation in which refugees along with locals sought to reconfigure Catholicism after the rise of Protestantism. It is thus important to analyse how among Catholics in the borderlands of Cambrai, ‘the making of’ a transregional religion took place.

Print culture in borderlands. Transregional collaboration in the Archdiocese of Cambrai (1559-1659).

Drs. Alexander Soetaert

Curiously, during the crucial century of civil, religious and territorial war between 1559 and 1659, the Cambrai Archdiocese developed into a multilingual printing centre for Catholicism, even if the printing presses were introduced rather late compared to printing centres such as Antwerp and Lyon. The mechanisms behind the sixteenth-century multilingual print culture in Cambrai show us how borderlands could become laboratories of religious innovation in the early modern times. Catholic print culture in Cambrai was not only impressive in terms of numbers, but also because of its great variety in social and regional backgrounds of patrons, printers, booksellers, authors, translators and censors. Hence, a social topography of the Catholic print production will determine how immigrants and locals, besides clergy and lay people, interacted to forge Catholicism. The working hypothesis here is that within the Catholic printing business different social and regional backgrounds could successfully be overcome at certain instances.

New borders, new strategies? Aspects of border management during and after the Eighty Year’s War (ca. 1580-1660).

Drs. Bram De Ridder (KU Leuven/FWO)

Between the start of the Dutch Revolt and the conclusion of the Peace of Munster in 1648, the former Seventeen Provinces of the Habsburg Low Countries were engaged in a process of violent separation. The result of this process is the well-known split between the Dutch Republic and the remaining Habsburg Netherlands. However, with the gradual formation of two new and distinct states an equally new border was formatted. This border was nevertheless not a predetermined fact, nor a neat and uncontested division. In practice, officials and subjects from both states engaged with the military frontier, the temporary boundaries of the Twelve Years’ Truce and the limits set in 1648 through the articulation of different border management strategies. These included measures of prevention, control and circumvention as well as occasions of debate, conflict and controversy. Focusing on the political and juridical strategies applied, this paper seeks to elaborate how border management was as much a manifestation as a cause of border formation in the Early Modern Low Countries.


4-7 October 2014, Arras, Mons, Lille


7-9 May 2015: Transregional Reformations

The Fifth RefoRC Conference 2015 will be held May 7-9, 2015 and will hosted by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

Short Papers and General Attendance

The conference is open to individual short paper presentations (20 minutes presentation, 10 minutes discussion) and to thematic sessions of two or three short papers. It is also possible to attend the conference without presenting a paper. While we encourage papers on the conference theme, papers can focus on all disciplines related to the 16th century reformations, such as arts, philosophy, law, history, theology etc., independent of the theme of the plenary papers.

Short Paper Submission and Registration

Short paper submissions and registrations can be submitted via the registration form.

Theme of Plenary Papers

The theme of the plenary papers is: Crossing Borders: Transregional Reformations

In recent decades, the field of transnational/transregional history has yielded novel insights: the constant movement of persons, goods, ideas, books and images across boundaries induced a transfer of culture and knowledge shaping the early modern world much more profoundly than previously thought. Although alert to the universal aspect of religion, theologians and (church) historians are only starting to apply this methodology to the study of religious reform in the sixteenth century.

The conference aims to emphasize the shift in the field of Reformation Studies to a cross-border and multi-confessional approach: How were religious exile, confessional identity and transregional transfers connected? What were the routes and networks of religious reform, along and across borders? How did the printing press support transregional exchange? In what ways did global, transregional and local dimensions of religious reform interact?
The Fifth RefoRC Conference Leuven explores transregional dimensions of the Catholic and Protestant Reformations in the early modern period.

Short paper proposals need to be submitted via the registration form before 15 February 2015.


General communication of the conference is in English, but also papers in French and German will be welcomed. Presenters who prefer to give their paper in French or German, are invited to provide the audience with an English summary of about 150-200 words.


You can register online. Your registration will become effective on receipt of your payment. Closure of registration: May 6, 2015.

The Registration Fee Includes

  • subscription to the JEMC of 2016 (two issues)

Contact for More General Information and Information on Short Paper Submissions

Prof. Dr. Wim François, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, Sint-Michielsstraat 4, box 3101

Prof. Dr. Violet Soen, Faculty of Arts, Blijde Inkomststraat 21, box 3307 B-3000 Leuven, Belgium

Prof. Dr. Johan Verberckmoes, Faculty of Arts, Blijde Inkomststraat 21, box 3307 B-3000 Leuven, Belgium

Contact for More information on Registration and Payment

Karla Apperloo-Boersma, project leader of Refo500 (

Conference Secretariat

Drs. Antonio Gerace, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies

Drs. Alexander Soetaert, Faculty of Arts


See also:


La frontière franco-belge (30/11/2012)

La frontière franco-belge. Une rencontre entre historiens de l’Ancien Régime et de l’histoire contemporaine, 30 November 2012, Courtrai.


In April 2012, historians from the Netherlands, Belgium and France gathered at the Université de Valenciennes et du Hainaut-Cambrésis to discuss identity formation in the late medieval and early modern Low Countries. Participants soon discovered their shared passion for the study of borderlands in the past. This workshop therefore aimed to provide a follow-up meeting of the Valenciennes conference, while enlarging its chronological scope. The day was  hosted by a research centre which pursues similar research interests for the modern period, that is the Centre for the History of Intercultural Relations based at KU Leuven/KULAK in Kortrijk. This centre explicitly aims to put the study of cross-border relations in a historical perspective. Embedded in several transregional partnerships and situated in a frontier position at the meeting point of Flanders, Wallonia and the North of France, the research centre largely deals with the historical study of intercultural relations in border regions. As such, the workshop offered a forum for discussion and networking across borders and across specialisms. The texts discussed will appear in the volume of the book series of the Revue du Nord.


10h30: Introduction

Yves Junot (Université de Valenciennes et du Hainaut-Cambrésis), Florian Mariage (Université Lille 3, UC Louvain, Archives de l’Etat à Tournai), Violet Soen (KU Leuven)

10h40: Presentation of Eurométropole

Griet Noë , Project Manager European Strategy, Agence de l’Eurométropole

Virginie Coucke, Policy Advisor, KULAK Presentation of project Université Métropolitaine

11h: Academic Presentations

Bram de Ridder (KU Leuven, Research Foundation Flanders): Border studies past and present. Theoretical and historiographical approaches to the boundaries in and between the Low Countries, 1580-1660

Tom Verschaffel & Saartje Vanden Borre (KU Leuven – KULAK/CHIR): The cultural history of migration: Belgians in Le Nord in the 19th century

12h: Discussion (plenary)

12h30: Salutatory address by Piet Desmet, Head of the Subfaculty of Arts

14h30: Discussion on the following papers

Hans Cools & Violet Soen (KU Leuven): Des familles transrégionales: les maisons de Croÿ et Luxembourg (1470-1520)

Olivia Carpi (Université dé Picardie – Amiens): L’identité civique à l’épreuve de la guerre civile: le cas des villes de Picardie (ca. 1560-ca. 1640)

Marie Kervyn (Université libre de Bruxelles) & Yves Junot (Université de Valenciennes): Identités de frontières: la question des appartenances au long de la frontière sud des Pays-Bas méridionaux (XVIe-XVIIe siècles)

Alexandra Petrowski (Université Lille 3): Frontière, identités et mobilités dans les Flandres de la fin de l’Ancien Régime

17h30: Presentations of two recent publications by Academia Press (Gent) & CHIR

Saartje Vanden Borre, Vreemden op vertrouwd terrein. Het sociaal-culturele leven en de integratie van Belgische migranten in Noord Frankrijk (1850-1914)

Elien Declercq, Migrants belges en France. Une histoire revisitée à travers la chanson populaire (1870-1914)


triptiek van de Spaans-Brugse familie van Juan Lopez Gallo en Catherina Pardo

Hispano-Flemish Elites

Hispano-Flemish Elites in the Habsburg Netherlands. Transregional marriages and mixed identities, 1659-1708

PhD-student: Sophie Verreyken

Promotor: W. Thomas
Co-Promotor: V. Soen

Firm ties between local elites were crucial to the functioning of early modern composite states. During the second half of the seventeenth century, however, existing ties to the ruling Spanish-Habsburg dynasty faced pressure in the Southern Netherlands due to international war. Rather surprisingly and often forgotten, Hispano-Flemish elites persisted; moreover, similar elites emerged through new mixed marriages. So far, research has not solved the conundrum why this could happen under these difficult circumstances of continued tense relationships between Spain and the Southern Netherlands. In addition, these new elites supported Habsburg rule while anchoring themselves in local power structures. This gave rise to mixed identities, which were at odds with the proto-national ‘Belgian’ identity suggested by recent scholarship. Drawing on archival sources, printed and iconographical sources in Spain and Belgium, this project will closely investigate both mechanisms of network and identity formation. By doing so, it aims to contribute to current debates on the construction of transregional elites and identities and on the position of the Southern Netherlands within the Spanish-Habsburg empire, and that for a time span generally neglected by research. Alongside a PhD-dissertation, this research project should also result in peer-reviewed journal articles, presentations on international research forums and public lectures for local audiences.


Strategies of Border Management

Strategies of border management: the evolution of the boundaries between the Habsburg Netherlands and the Dutch Republic, ca. 1580-1660

Primary Researcher: Bram De Ridder

Promotor: V. Soen

This research project focuses on the broad period known as the Eighty Years’ War, during which the Habsburg Netherlands and the United Provinces were formed as independent states. This process also entailed that the borders between the two states needed to transform from a military front to a boundary agreed upon by both parties. This was gradually arranged with the Twelve Years’ Truce and the final peace treaty in 1648, but given the hostile relations during the war both states still needed to determine their approach to the new border. This was all the more necessary given that these states had grown out of the loosely connected Habsburg domain known as the Seventeen Provinces, resulting in claims from both sides on the territories of the enemy. This complex situation resulted in the formulation of ‘border management’ strategies, which could include the building of fortifications or the sending of religious missions across the border. However, in order to have an idea of the impact these actions had, this research will also look into the response of the local communities near the new delineation. For example, it is important to know how much contact there still could be between cities on opposite sides of the freshly determined border, and how this influenced their relation to the central authorities. By doing this, we will get a clearer view on how these young states functioned, and how the relations between them evolved.

Publications related to this project:

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.

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

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 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.

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