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E. Van Onacker
Village Elites and Social Structures in the Late Medieval Campine Region

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XLI+319 p., 7 b/w ill. + 4 Maps, 57 Graphs, 68 b/w tables, 156 x 234 mm, 2017
ISBN: 978-2-503-55459-4
Languages: English
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Reveals how specific social structures and accompanying elite characteristics guaranteed stability and continuity in a communal peasant region in the otherwise dynamic late medieval Low Countries.

The economy of the late medieval Low Countries is often portrayed in terms of dynamism and economic growth. However, several regions within this larger entity followed an alternate path of development. One example of this is the Campine (Kempen), a communal peasant region situated to the northeast of the sixteenth-century ‘metropolis’ of Antwerp. By contrast with other regions in the Low Countries, this area was characterised by a remarkable stability.

By focusing on ‘independent’ peasant elites, this study explores the social structures and the characteristics of inequality of this region, showing how these factors led to a different, more stable mode of economic development. Looking past standard societal measurements such as property distribution, this work combines a wide variety of sources to grasp the nuances of inequality in a communal society. It therefore takes into account other economic factors such as control over the commons, and market integration. It also focuses on political and social inequality, shedding light on aspects of inequality in village politics, social life, and poor relief.

Thus, in contrast to dominant depictions of pre-modern societies on the road to capitalism, this book provides a comprehensive portrayal of inequality and elite groups in a communal peasant society.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Manorial and Stately Power and (In)Equality

Chapter 2. Social and Fiscal Inequality in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Campine Area 

Chapter 3. Controlling the Campine Commons

Chapter 4. Campine Peasants and Market Integration: Activities in the Pre-Modern Commodity and Factor Markets

Chapter 5. Campine Tenant Farmers and the Village Community 

Chapter 6. Village Government and Officeholding in the Campine Area 

Chapter 7. Social Cohesion and the Village Community: A Focus on Church Life and Poor Relief  





"Dit is een rijk gestoffeerd boek, dat aandacht besteedt aan de veelzijdige facetten van het dorpsleven: de armenzorg, politieke besluitvorming, kredietnetwerken, de relatie met de grootstad (in casu Antwerpen, metropool in wording), fiscaliteit enzovoort. Onderzoekers biedt dit boek een geweldige gelegenheid om hun eigen gegevens met die over de Brabantse dorpen te vergelijken. (...) een heel interessant naslagwerk dat vorsers nog lang zullen consulteren. (..) een solide onderbouwd onderzoek, dat nog lang debatten over sociale en economische veranderingen (of het gebrek eraan) zal voeden."

Jelle Haemers in: BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review . 133, May 2018

Interest Classification:
Social Sciences
Common or customary law
Medieval & Renaissance History (c.400-1500)
The Renaissance world (c.1450-1550) : specific topics
Reformation & Counter-Reformation
Modern History (1501 to the present)
Early modern history (1501-1800) : main subdisciplines
Social & economic history
Cultural & intellectual history
Early modern history (1501-1800) : auxiliary sciences
Geography & cartography
Demography & settlement studies
Early modern European history (1501-1800) : local & regional history
Low Countries

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