Book Series Studies in European Urban History (1100-1800), vol. 17

For the Common Good

State Power and Urban Revolts in the Reign of Mary of Burgundy, 1477-1482

Jelle Haemers

  • Pages: xii + 319 p.
  • Size:178 x 254 mm
  • Illustrations:16 b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2009

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  • ISBN: 978-2-503-52986-8
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  • ISBN: 978-2-503-55948-3
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"Insgesamt gesehen handelt es sich um ein sorgfältig recherchiertes und sehr interessantes Buch." (Gisela Naegle, in: Zeitschrift für historische Forschung, 396. Band, 2012, Heft 1, p. 128-130)


In 1477, the Low Countries were in chaos. On 5 January Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, was killed in the battle of Nancy. His political adversaries used this fortuitous opportunity to reverse his much-hated policies. The late duke’s confidents were executed, as nobles fled from court.  The French king declared war on Charles’ heir, Mary of Burgundy, and the cities rose in rebellion against the duchy. United in their opposition to the ducal court, the Estates-General instituted a new state structure which severely reduced the power of the central state. The duchess’ new husband, Maximilian of Austria, was never able to dictate war policy nor appease the discontent of the populace, because his first priority was to strengthen the power of the Habsburg dynasty. In 1482, when Mary of Burgundy died after a tragic fall from her horse, revolt again spread across the county of Flanders. In this dramatic crisis that would last for a decade, central authority was again challenged by a political alternative, the Flemish regency council.

This book examines the people behind the revolt.  From a murky background of conflicting loyalties, it identifies the principal allies of the Habsburg dynasty and key political adversaries of Maximilian in the Flemish cities. An in-depth analysis of their lives and their socio-economic and cultural backgrounds on the eve of the Flemish Revolt elucidates their reasons for rebelling or remaining loyal to court.  By focusing on disloyal nobles at court and urban dissenters in the county of Flanders, this book goes beyond previous studies of the revolt and offers new insights into the social history of medieval politics. In the end, readers will discover whether the court, the nobility, and the urban rebels were really striving for the goal they claimed, the common good.


Jelle Haemers is a post-doctoral research fellow at Ghent University (IAP-project ‘City and Society in the Low Countries, 1100-1800’). His research interests focus mainly on urban history of the Late Middle Ages.

!Winner of the Frans Van Cauwelaert Prize for 2008!