The Struggle for the Urban Privileges as One of the Factors of Political Development of Flanders in the XIVth Century

Publication type Article
Status Published
EditionVolume 5 Issue 6 (29)
AbstractThe XIVth century was one of the most turbulent ones in history of Flanders. Rich and powerful Ghent, Bruges, and Ypres (‘Three cities’) rose against their seigneurs several times reducing the power of the counts in their lands. But how far did the influence and control of ‘Three cities’ over the territory of Flanders stretch? Traditional conception, given in the ‘classical’ works of A. Pirenn, has been reconsidering since 1970-s. Flanders was one of the most urbanised regions of Europe, and a kind of ‘urban agglomerations’ of smaller towns were forming around Ghent, Bruges, and Ypres during this period. These towns as well as numerous other Flemish urban centers, sittuated farther from Ghent, Bruges, and Ypres, were in competition with their crafts and commerce. ‘Three cities’ sought for ‘monopoly’ for the production of export-oriented drapery that led to its ban on the territories neighbour with ‘Three cities’. But the ‘monopolies’ of Ghent, Bruges, and Ypres opposed the interests of less powerful neigbour towns. So they continued to produce the forbiden types of drapes despite the bans. Numerous documets give us the information about such conflicts and show that even the use of the military forces (‘militia’) and the destruction of weaving looms by Ghent and Ypres during the revolts could not stop the production and sale of forbiden drapery in towns that disregarded the ban. Article deals with one of the most illustrative examples: the struggle of Ghent against Dendermonde that ignored Ghent’s ‘monopoly and produced the drapes very similar to Ghent’s ones. Faced with the threat of siege and destruction dy Ghent’s militia during the Flemish revolt of 1338—1346 Dendermonde allied the count of Flanders Louis de Nevers. The example of Dendermonde shows that Flemish towns discontented with monopolies given to Ghent, Ypres, and Bruges formed the power that the counts of Flanders could use to decrease the influence of ‘Three cities’ in Flanders. As for Ghent, Bruges, and Ypres, they could not or probably did not want to increase their authority usurping the jurisdiction of their rulers over the wide range of problems. The prerogative of counts to grant new privileges to towns and to settle the conflicts of economical relations between their subjects was always one of these important competencies.
KeywordsFlanders, towns, privileges, drapery, Ghent, Ypres, Bruges, Dendermonde, political development, monopoly, revolts, organisation of crafts
Publication date12.11.2014
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