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Historical landscape research and regional institutional history in the transition debate. A case study in coastal Flanders

Historical landscape research and regional institutional history in the transition debate. A case study in coastal Flanders

By Dries Tys

XIV International Economic History Congress (2006)

Synopsis: In this contribution I want to argue that regional ideological and therefore institutional practices according to a deliberate strategy and concept of power are central to our understanding of landscape development. I apply this question on a medieval landscape, the 10th to 12th century landscape of coastal Flanders. This is the region were the counts of Flanders started to build their powerful political position in high medieval Europe: the pagus Flandrensis from the late 9th century. In this feudal era, the development of princely (and feudal) power is intrinsically linked with kinship, ideology and patrimony. In the same period, maritime Flanders develops from a salt-marsh area at the edge of the sandy fringe, densely inhabited in the late Roman and Merovingian times (including a caput fisci and a late Roman castellum that became royal and later comital possession in the middle ages), to a polder area next to important commercial towns as Bruges, Veurne and Ieper. I will argue how the comital ideological concept and the way in which property was developed had an important influence on the material and social formation of the landscape of this area and created an environmental and spatial dialog of power. This understanding of the landscape will also provide new data and arguments in the role of coastal Flanders in the transition debate, by which we touch upon the central theme of this session: the fringe between landscape history and economic history and the relation between cultural landscape construction and the formation of the Market in pre-industrial Europe.

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