The development of urban centres in medieval Flanders went hand in hand with receiving royal charters which granted more jurisdiction to the city. Consequently, these privileges were meticulously preserved because they were the products of laborious negotiations between Ghent on the one hand and the French king, the count of Flanders or the duke of Burgundy on the other. Due to the overwhelming importance of these records – as the foundation of urban liberties and freedom – they were preserved under lock and key. Internal urban tensions combined with a difficult relationship with the prince, made the contemporaries keep a sharp eye on these documents.
This research project aims to reconstruct the dimensions, practical organisation and accessibility of the archive of late medieval Ghent. On the basis of a profound analysis of the charter collection, oldest inventories, cartularies and registers, I investigate how the archive – in its different meanings (as collection of valuable documents, as place, and as institute) – played a role in development of a sense of urban social memory. Therefore, archival practices will be studied from the angle of power relations, because controlling the past had a direct impact on the legitimacy of those claims in the present.