Powers in transition and networks in action. Diplomatic agency and social-political networking of female rulers in Flanders, Hainaut and Brabant (late thirteenth to fourteenth centuries)

Macht in transitie en netwerken in actie. Diplomatieke agency en sociaal-politieke netwerking van vrouwelijke heerseressen in Vlaanderen, Henegouwen en Brabant (late dertiende tot veertiende eeuw)
Begin - Einde 
2021 - 2024 (lopend)
Vakgroep Geschiedenis
Andere instituten 
Université de Lille



Notwithstanding that medieval gender history focusing on women’s engagement with power has flourished as an academic field since the 1980s, it still shows important lacunas in the assessment of aristocratic women’s diplomatic roles and actions from a geo-political point of view, especially in the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, a turbulent period in which territorial powers in Western Europe underwent a profound transformation towards a more coherent interregional political space that would fully develop under Burgundian rule in the course of the fifteenth century. To provide a more nuanced view on ‘female diplomacy’ and social-political networking used by about twelve ‘genealogically interconnected’ princesses of Flanders, Hainaut and Brabant, this project aims to develop a comparative integrated gender history that goes beyond the traditional roles of aristocratic women as individual actors and patrons of religious houses or literary production. Instead, it proposes an alternative assessment of their actions as political mediators within the wider interregional context of (1) the Hundred’ Years war and the increasing diplomatic alliances this entailed, and (2) the twofold feudal allegiance to the French and Imperial sovereigns, who both aspired to increase their control over the Low Countries. In doing so, the project will re-evaluate the strategic position of the twelve countesses/duchesses as key figures in (inter)regional marriage strategies and diplomatic relationships in a world where ‘diplomatic’ history mingled with ‘familial’ history and (male) territorial power was constantly being disputed, negotiated and reinforced.




Externe medewerkers

Elodie Lecuppre-Desjardin