Limbourg 1575 Source: Civitatis_Orbis_Terrarum/Wikipedia

Territory in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe

In recent political and constitutional history, scholars seldom specify how and why they use the concept of territory. New book argues that territory is the lived space of people

Constructing and Representing Territory in Late Medieval and Early Modern EuropeConstructing and Representing Territory in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe cover
Ed. By Mario Damen and Kim Overlaet
Amsterdam University Press 2022
Open Access

Inspired by ideas from political geographers, this book explores the layered and constantly changing meanings of territory in late medieval and early modern Europe before cartography and state formation turned boundaries and territories into more fixed (but still changeable) geographical entities.

The central thesis is that analysing the notion of territory in a premodern setting involves analysing territorial practices: practices that relate people and power to the space(s), thorugh which they move. The book not only examines the construction and spatial structure of premodern territories but also explores their perception and representation through the use of a broad range of sources: from administrative texts to maps, from stained glass windows to chronicles. At the centre of the book, we find a number of articles focusing on the case of late medieval Brabrant.

The medieval duchy of Brabant was a core territory at the heart of Low Countries in the later Middle Ages. Highly urbanized and densely populated, it included seven cities in its territory, among these: Leuven, Brussels, Antwerp and Tienen (later Den Bosch). In the aftermath of the Black Death – which newer studies reveal had a terrifying impact on the Low Countries – the House of Leuven lost its powerful position. Coveted by Philip the Bold of Burgundy, Brabrant was lured into the hundred Years’ War. At the same time, however, medieval Brabrant was one of the most powerful principalities of the Low Countries. During the second half of the fourteenth century, it underwent a particularly dramatic period in its history: the House of Leuven was on the point of disappearance, the duchy was coveted by Philip the Bold of Burgundy, who was already dreaming of extending the “Burgundian Empire” and, by a network of alliances, Brabant was drawn into the Hundred Years’ War. The author reviews the successive conflicts which troubled the duchy between 1356 and 1406; the different authorities which influenced the course of military operations (the duchess and the duke, their officers, and the Estates of Brabant); describes the combatants, in particular the nobility and the urban militias; considers the practical aspects of warfare; and analyses the military obligations and contracts which bound the men at arms to the duke.


Constructing and Representing Territory in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe: An Introduction (Mario Damen and Kim Overlaet)

Part 1 The Multiplicity of Territory

  1. Were There ‘Territories’ in the German Lands of the Holy Roman Empire in the Fourteenth to Sixteenth Centuries? (Duncan Hardy)
  2. Beyond the State: Community and Territory-Making in Late Medieval Italy (Luca Zenobi)
  3. Clerical and Ecclesiastical Ideas of Territory in the Late Medieval Low Countries (Bram van den Hoven van Genderen)
  4. Marginal Might? The Role of Lordships in the Territorial Integrity of Guelders, c. 1325-c. 1575 (Jim van der Meulen)

Part 2 The Construction of Territory

  1. Demographic Shifts and the Politics of Taxation in the Making of Fifteenth-Century Brabant (Arend Elias Oostindier and Rombert Stapel)
  2. From Knights Errant to Disloyal Soldiers? The Criminalisation of Foreign Military Service in the Late Medieval Meuse and Rhine Regions, 1250-1550 (Sander Govaerts)
  3. Conquest, Cartography and the Development of Linear Frontiers during Henry VIII’s Invasion of France in 1544-1546 (Neil Murphy)
  4. From Multiple Residences to One Capital? Court Itinerance during the Regencies of Margaret of Austria and Mary of Hungary in the Low Countries (c. 1507-1555) (Yannick De Meulder)

Part 3 The Representation of Territory

  1. Heraldry and Territory: Coats of Arms and the Representation and Construction of Authority in Space (Mario Damen and Marcus Meer)
  2. The Territorial Perception of the Duchy of Brabant in Historiography and Vernacular Literature in the Late Middle Ages (Bram Caers and Robert Stein)
  3. Imagining Flanders: The (De)construction of a Regional Identity in Fifteenth-Century Flanders (Lisa Demets)
  4. Mapping Imagined Territory: Quaresmio’s Chorographia and Later Franciscan Holy Land Maps (Marianne Ritsema van Eck)

Constructing and Representing Territory in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe: A Conclusion (Mario Damen and Kim Overlaet)

This collection of essays is the result of a research project financed by the Dutch Research Council (NWO), entitled Imagining a Territory: Constructions and Representations of Late Medieval Brabant (project nr. 360-50-100), and carried out at the University of Amsterdam. NWO also funded the publication of this volume in Open Access.


Mario Damen is senior lecturer at the University of Amsterdam. He has published widely on the social and political history of the late medieval Low Countries and is the PI of the research project Imagining a territory. Constructions and representations of late medieval Brabant, financed by the Dutch Research Council (NWO).

Kim Overlaet worked from 2016 till 2019 as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam on the NWO project ‘Imagining a territory’. She currently works as a research manager at the Department of History at Antwerp University.



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