Durham University

Department of History

Staff Profile

Miss Jenine de Vries

Late medieval urban historiography in its political context in the Low Countries and England in the Department of History

(email at j.d.e.de-vries@durham.ac.uk)

PhD Research

In my PhD research I seek to compare urban and regional historiography in England, the Northern and the Southern Low Countries with special attention for the way chronicles, and origin myths, are used in and influenced by the political situations.

Medieval town chronicles are mainly known from Italy, Switzerland and Germany. It is believed that North-West Europe knew few examples hereof. Compared to other countries, the local chronicles known from the Low Countries for instance are said to show less ‘authentic urban consciousness’, which is remarkable because of the high degree of urbanisation and the great political significance of cities in the Low Countries. In England, medieval urban historiography has never even received a place in academic research, because it was thought not to exist at all. This view has, however, been questioned in the last few decades for several towns in Flanders, (e.g. Ypres, Ghent), and for London and I plan to study this further in my PhD.

Historiography and politics are closely related. Many regional and local chronicles are written with a particular political view in mind, for the history of places and people determine the situation, status and privileges of the present. This is partly why it is so interesting to include a comparative view on three different areas in my research, as these regions all experienced a very different political situation in the late Middle Ages. Whereas England was a strict monarchy with very little autonomy in its cities, their continental counterparts possessed much more power. In Flanders, the autonomous cities were the main power structure, while in the Northern Low Countries urbanisation was high, but the provincial structure was the major political body. It is often said that the political structure of city states in Germany and Italy made those regions the only areas fit for the production of urban chronicles. Although I agree with the idea that politics and history writing are mutually connected and should be studied together, I think the political forms of the Low Countries and England were no hindrance in producing local history writing. It will be very interesting to see how these differences in political context influence the presence and content of urban and regional history writing. The main question I seek to answer is therefore: how can we understand urban and regional historiography in its political context in the late medieval Low Countries and England?

The international scope of this research will provide new understandings in the relationships between political and social backgrounds and historiographical traditions. It will also open up many opportunities for new detailed study, because it will reveal many interesting manuscripts and research questions in the field of urban historiography in the Low Countries and England, which have been largely ignored because of problematic definitions.


Academia profile: http://durham.academia.edu/JeninedeVries

Research Interests

  • Burgundian Low Countries
  • Late Medieval and Early Modern Urban History
  • Manuscript Studies
  • Medieval Chronicles
  • Urban Historiography
  • Urban Identity