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Coopetition and Legislation in the Spanish Netherlands (1598-1665)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - COLEX (Coopetition and Legislation in the Spanish Netherlands (1598-1665))

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-09-30

The COLEX project (Coopetition and Legislation) aimed to produce unprecedented and original research on the (in)effectiveness of legislation promulgated in the name of the Spanish King in the Spanish Netherlands (currently Belgium, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Northern France) during the reign of the Archdukes Albert and Isabelle (1598-1621) and Philip IV of Spain (1621-1665). In order to study carefully the chosen theme, we will rely on the concept of coopetition. The chosen period should allow for a comparison of legislation enforcement since the reign of the Archdukes, starting with the death of King Philip II, after which the Netherlands was ceded to the archducal couple, until the death of King Philip IV. This period was a pivotal moment in the history of these territories. After the Revolt started by the Northern provinces in the 1560s against Philip II, the government of the Archdukes saw the introduction of temporary peace with the enemy Dutch Republic (Twelve Years’ Truce, 1609-1621). However, in the year 1621, conflict between them returned and they joined a European war that had already begun (Thirty Years’ War, 1618-1648). The Netherlands, part of the vast Spanish Monarchy since the end of the 15th century, are a prime area in which to try to understand the logic that governs the decisions in the field of law enforcement. If there is a representative of the monarch in Brussels - the governor-general - he must take into consideration the political culture of these principalities that are characterised by the involvement of subjects (towns, trades, merchants, etc.) in the decision-making process. Moreover, this involvement manifests itself in different ways (petitions, appeals, draft legal acts, etc.). The case of the Netherlands is not only interesting in its own right, but also from a comparative perspective with other territories of the Spanish Monarchy in the early modern era.
"First, let me stress that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the project had to be put on stand-by from March 2020 as archive centres and libraries were closed all over Europe.

Before March 2020, I have had the opportunity to take advantage of the workshop held in Madrid on 3 February 2020 to reflect on the notion of coopetition from an interdisciplinary point of view with book historians, legal historians and historians of politics and institutions. This allowed us to clearly realise that situations of cooperation and competition obviously existed to a very large extent in the 15th, 16th or 17th centuries. However, situations of coopetition were fewer but still more frequent when the political, economic or cultural ecosystems were disrupted by a novelty ; the previous relationships had to be reconfigured. This is notoriously the case with the introduction of printing in Western Europe at the end of the 15th century, which forced the actors in the sector to collaborate while simultaneously being competitors.

From March 2020, we have chosen to reorient our research agenda due to the general lockdown in Europe and the closure of archive centres and libraries everywhere in Europe.

An alternative way was considered to take into account the notion of ""coopetition"" while adjusting it to a different research topic that I was able to tackle from home. It was decided to focus on the dissemination of 16th and 17th century legislation in the Habsburg Netherlands and to study the relationship between printers and political authorities at that time. This change of orientation made it possible to assess the competitive business relationships between printers in order to gain the favor of the central government. Nevertheless, I found that these same printers could largely collaborate and sell each other the official documents they had printed.

This reorientation of the project due to the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed me to (re)discover a series of archives that have already been digitised but little used by historians of political communication or legal historians. These are mainly the archives of the printing workshop of the family Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp, one of the most important ones during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Because I had to return to Belgium during the lockdown, I took advantage of the partial reopening of the archives and libraries from the spring of 2020 to further explore the archives related to printing and communication of the legislation. I was thus able to uncover the - yet unknown - date of death of the official printer of the ordinances of the Spanish sovereigns in the Habsburg Netherlands. An article is currently underway for publication in a peer-reviewed journal (De Gulden Passer).

I also launched a series of webinars in October 2020 with speakers from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain in an attempt to continue to offer a (virtual) space for debate on these issues. More than 120 people have registered to date. The last webinar will take place in April 2021.

Exploitation and dissemination
- 1 workshop held in Madrid (February 2020) : this event gave the opportunity to 5 researchers specialists of the 15th, 16th and the 17th C. to reflect on the concept of coopetition
- webinar « Images, Politics & Communication » (3 lectures, 3 speakers)
- webinar « Print and Power during the Early Modern Era » (7 lectures, 8 speakers, 130 people registered)
- 1 article in a peer-reviewed journal
- 1 Twitter account (@COLEX_project, 88 followers)"
During the lockdown of spring 2020, I discovered a collection of printed edicts preserved in the special collections of the Libraries of the UCLouvain in Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium). In association with the Centre for the History of Law and Justice (UCLouvain) and the Special Collections Manager, we decided to launch a research project around this collection. As a member of the project, I participated in the production of a video presenting the collection. This video was produced for the European Researchers' Night 2020 organised at UCLouvain in November 2020 via Zoom events.

This COLEX spin-off project is called Imprim@Lex and has already attracted the attention of several Belgian and foreign researchers. The future activities of this project will lead to the creation of an online platform where the digitised collection will be accessible as well as articles intended for specialists (scholars) and non specialists of this topic (high schools students, adults, etc.).
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