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1 - The Netherlands in the Early Sixteenth Century

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 June 2022

Christine Kooi
Affiliation:
Louisiana State University
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Summary

This chapter introduces the setting and context of the narrative. The Low Countries were a heavily urbanized corner of Europe situated at the delta of several of the continent’s major river systems. The region was economically prosperous, thanks to well-developed systems of trade, manufacturing and agriculture. Its three million inhabitants were linguistically and ethnically diverse and ranged from high-ranking nobles to middling business to hardscrabble farmers. The region was divided economically between an urban, commercial, maritime west and a rural, agricultural east. Political power was local and decentralized, although the Habsburg dynasty, especially Charles V, was engaged in an ongoing effort to centralized and consolidate their dynastic power at the expense of local nobles and city governments. The chapter also describes the vibrant state of late medieval Christianity in the region, including lay enthusiasm for devotional practice and the emergence of Christian humanism.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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