Popular street politics and political modernization. From a linear to a layered perspective on regimes and repertoires. Antwerp, Belgium, ca. 1880-1940

Straatpolitiek en politieke modernisering. Van een lineair naar een gelaagd perspectief op regimes en repertoires. Antwerpen, België, ca. 1880-1940
Start - End 
2017 - 2021 (ongoing)
Department of History
Research Focus 
Research Period 
Research Region 



In the beginning history was “political history”. The insight that the subjects of governmental rule, ordinary people, could act politically themselves is relatively new however. Acting on this insight, historians increasingly turned their attention to the changing ways in which common people expressed their political agency. Most influential in this regard has been the tipping point-theory of American sociologist Charles Tilly. He argued that forms of popular politics (the repertoires) fundamentally changed around 1850. Political street performances became less direct, less diverse and less local in aspirations. Put crudely: 18th century localist food riots and charivaris made way for 20th century national demonstrations and petitions. This project will demonstrate that this idea of a tipping point is too linear and too “absolute”. Instead I will opt for a more layered perspective on political modernization. This project aims to show that different regimes and repertoires of popular street politics coexisted synchronically. Informal neighborhood regimes for example, stayed relevant in times of national democratization, maintaining their own street repertoire. To establish this, I will conduct a long-term study on the practices of popular street politics on the streets of a modern city, Antwerp. I will focus on the period around the turn of the 19th century, in which the Belgian political system decisively modernized, ca. 1880-1940. 




Phd Student(s)