Low Countries Histories - Periodization

Braudel, Fernand. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II2 vols. Berkeley-Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995.

In this groundbreaking work, Braudel set out to broaden the scope of traditional biographical, political, and diplomatic history to include more economic and social history.  By taking advantage of the other social sciences, he aimed to produce a total history.  In the end, he concluded that the Mediterranean Sea and the Mediterranean region were the waterbed of western civilization, nourishing classical culture during the Greco-Roman period and serving as the matrix of Christian Europe through the medieval period.  It was not until the sixteenth century that it began pulling apart, polarized between Hapsburg Spain and Ottoman Empire.

Cipolla, Carlo. Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy, 1000– 1700. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1994.

Cipolla analyzed the historical development of European society and economy between the eleventh and eighteenth centuries and concluded that the industrial revolution was the coherent outcome of a historical development that took place in Europe over “the first seven centuries of our now expiring millennium" (xiii, 122).

Huizinga, Johan. The Autumn of the Middle Ages. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

According to this Dutch historian from Groningen, the time around the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries did not announce the Renaissance, but marked the end of the medieval period.  He also posited that the last manifestation of medieval culture took place in France and Burgundy between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Kriedte, Peter. Peasants, Landlords, and Merchant Capitalists. Europe and the World Economy, 1500-1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

In this synthesis, Kriedte uses a Marxist framework to conventionally divide early modern European history into the sixteenth century, which was marked by a revolution in prices, the seventeenth century social and economic crisis, and the upswing that took place in the eighteenth century as a result of protoindustrialization.

Scammel, G.V. The World Encompassed: The First European Maritime Empires. Berkeley-Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1981.

In this work Scammel argued for the existence of a continuous and essentially homogeneous period of expansion from the ninth to the middle of the seventeenth century, thus challenging the notion of 1492 as a watershed date in world history.  In short, Scammel contended that European expansion had its roots in early modern Europe.

Vries, Jan de. European Urbanization 1500-1800. London: Methuen, 1984.

Born in the Netherlands in 1943, this Dutch-American historian collected data on the population history of 379 European cities, which he analyzed at fifty-year intervals. In so doing, he asserted that European experienced a long  seventeenth century that began in 1600 and did not come to a close until 1750. Early in this century, European cities experienced stagnant population growth that produced a prolonged urban crisis and, eventually, the development of  protoindustrialization, which resulted in the emergence of a singular, hierarchic urban system by 1750 that would ultimately usher in the modern period in Europe.

Wee, Herman van der. “The Low Countries in Transition: From the Middle Ages to Early Modern Times.” In The Low Countries in the Early Modern World, edited by Herman van der Wee, 3–28. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

In this essay Van der Wee periodized the history of the Low Countries from 700 to 1500.  According toe Van der Wee, in 700 the Dunkirk II Transgression ended, which produced a new frontier and over time, the establishment of permanent settlements.  Beginning around 900 the economy of the Mediterranean region gradually began to revive, which led to reclamation and colonization, the rise of urban centers, and the birth of commercial capitalism.  This period ushered in the “Age of Flemish Cloth” (1100–1300) and witnessed the growth of Cambrai, Lille, Douai, Tournai, Valenciennes, Ghent, Bruges, and Ypres.  Although the Great Famine and the Black Death minimally impacted the region, they did disrupt the continental market system and tested the burgeoning urban centers in the subsequent period (1300–1500).  Lower wages resulted in artisan riots, which resulted in the expansion of the service sector. Meanwhile, declining prices challenged the rural areas, resulting in new cultivation methods and greater economic  specialization.  Furthermore, the increasing demand for luxury goods from Burgundian counts and the newly idle elite in Flanders resulted in the golden age of Antwerp (1400–1500).  Then, from 1495–1530, European world trade was revitalized.  The explosive growth of a global economy had been born and, with it, increasing populations and the broadening of international trade to the cities of the Randstad and the onset of the golden age of Amsterdam, and, ultimately, Van der Wee, argued, the maturation of commercial capitalism.

Return to Index