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Political ideology and the rewriting of history in fifteenth-century Flanders

Tijdschriftbijdrage - Tijdschriftartikel

Medieval views on rulers from the past were often politically instrumentalised in the service of contemporary interests. In the recent historiography on medieval Flanders, the reconstruction of how 'historical truth' changed over time to cater for topical needs has primarily been examined from the perspective of 'social' or 'communicative' memories, which were orally transmitted over a short period of time. This line of research followed the dominant 'communicative memory' paradigm. However, historians have paid far less systematic attention to the question how urban elites and state officials used histories that went farther back in time and dealt with the 'high politics' of princes and rulers to assert (rebellious) political ideologies of the moment. In this vast topic of research, historians are dealing with histories that were transmitted through manuscripts and not through oral communication. Instead of relying on the 'communicative memory' - paradigm, which allows historians to consider how the recent past has been ideologically reconstructed, this article examines how late fifteenth-century Flemish urban elites rewrote, interpolated, deformed and manipulated histories from a more distant past to shape a functional 'cultural memory' (in the sense of Jan Assmann's definition) that influenced a society's ideological vision on history. Taking the political speech of Willem Zoete (1488) and the late fifteenth-century popular and widespread Flemish historiographical Middle Dutch corpus, the Excellente Cronike van Vlaenderen, as a starting point, this article shows how rulers from the past served as a vehicle to express contemporary rebellious ideas against the regency of Maximilian of Austria, and how ideological motives and discursive strategies were deployed to advocate the ideology of the 'political contract' between the prince and his subjects, as well as the idea of the 'natural prince'.
ISSN: 2211-2898
Issue: 1
Volume: 134
Pagina's: 73 - 95
Jaar van publicatie:2019