The Promised Lands: The Low Countries under Burgundian Rule, 1369-1530

The Promised Lands: The Low Countries under Burgundian Rule, 1369-1530

The Promised Lands: The Low Countries under Burgundian Rule, 1369-1530

The Promised Lands: The Low Countries under Burgundian Rule, 1369-1530


They were, in the words of one contemporary observer, "the Promised Lands." In all of Europe, only Northern Italy could rival the economic power and cultural wealth of the Low Countries in the later Middle Ages.

In The Promised Lands, Wim Blockmans and Walter Prevenier trace the relations between the cultural and economic developments of the Low Countries and the political evolution of the region under the rule of the dukes of Burgundy. Combining political, diplomatic, administrative, economic, social, artistic, and cultural history, Blockmans and Prevenier have synthesized the most recent research on the subject--much of it their own--to produce the most accessible and authoritative book in English on the subject.

This is an updated and revised translation of a classic work first published in 1988, now expanded and reoriented toward a broader international readership.


This book is an account of one of the most striking political developments in the history of late medieval and early modern Europe: the formation of the state of the dukes of Burgundy in the Low Countries. The process of state formation began with the naming of Philip the Bold, son of King John II of France, as first peer of France and duke of Burgundy in 1363, and with his marriage in 1369 to Margaret of Male, heiress to the county of Flanders and other lands. With Philip’s virtually independent financial and political power base in Burgundy and the wealth of the Flemish countship and cities, Philip and his descendants built an elaborate network of many principalities, diverse in their character and history but all united in the person of the duke. From its beginnings in Burgundy, the center of gravity of this network moved increasingly to the Low Countries. In the sixteenth century, much of this state followed the tangled pathways of inheritance into the Habsburg Empire of Maximilian I and his grandson Charles V, who organized the Low Countries into the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands in 1543 and the Bourgondische Kreits, the Burgundian Circle, a self-contained part of the Empire, in 1548. In turn, part of this was transformed into the Spanish-Netherlands Empire of Charles’s son Philip II.

The Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands revolted against the absolutist regime of the king of Spain in the 1570s. The movement of revolution originated, not least for religious reasons, in the ten southernmost provinces of the seventeen, that is, principally in what is now Belgium. By 1585 these southern provinces had been reconquered by Spain with overwhelming military force. For that reason they remained in possession of the Spanish monarchy, and later the Austrian branches of the Habsburg dynasty, until 1794.

The seven provinces in the north, however, were able to win independence from the Spanish king, and, as the Republic of the United Provinces, entered their golden age in the seventeenth century. The BurgundianHabsburg union in the Low Countries thus had the lasting effect of forming two states, artificially separated after 1585, which have since traveled further down their sundered paths, confessionally separated by the . . .

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