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The Perception of Borders in a Changing Territory: The Late Medieval Low Countries through Foreign Eyes

Thu, March 22, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Harrah's Hotel, 2nd Level - Fulton Street Salon II


In the premodern period, the Burgundian and Habsburg Low Countries can only to a certain extent be considered a political unity. Indeed, the autonomy of the principalities, lordships and towns was protected by extensive rights and privileges, which all new rulers had to swear to uphold. In the past decades, scholars have paid increasing attention to the processes of identity-formation in these smaller territorial units. Yet, they tend to focus on the 'local' point of view. The question central to this paper is how foreign travellers visiting the Low Countries perceived and represented the Burgundian and Habsburg composite state. How did they experience the physical, political and cultural boundaries between, for example, Flanders and Brabant, or between Antwerp and Brussels? In order to answer these questions, I will analyse the travel narratives written by Pero Tafur (1436-39) and Lodovico Guicciardini (1567), in comparison to contemporary regional chronicles and inauguration charters.