Theses Doctoral

Court in the Market: The 'Business' of a Princely Court in the Burgundian Netherlands, 1467-1503

Cho, Jun Hee

This dissertation examines the relations between court and commerce in Europe at the onset of the modern era. Focusing on one of the most powerful princely courts of the period, the court of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, which ruled over one of the most advanced economic regions in Europe, the greater Low Countries, it argues that the Burgundian court was, both in its institutional operations and its cultural aspirations, a commercial enterprise. Based primarily on fiscal accounts, corroborated with court correspondence, municipal records, official chronicles, and contemporary literary sources, this dissertation argues that the court was fully engaged in the commercial economy and furthermore that the culture of the court, in enacting the ideals of a largely imaginary feudal past, was also presenting the ideals of a commercial future. It uncovers courtiers who, despite their low rank yet because of their market expertise, were close to the duke and in charge of acquiring and maintaining the material goods that made possible the pageants and ceremonies so central to the self-representation of the Burgundian court. It exposes the wider network of court officials, urban merchants and artisans who, tied by marriage and business relationships, together produced and managed the ducal liveries, jewelries, tapestries and finances that realized the splendor of the court. It shows how the princely court adapted to and harnessed the commercial economy of the urban network, employing nominally feudal titles and structures. Furthermore, it reveals how courtly understandings of magnificence and honor were also demonstrations of commercial prowess and acknowledgements of commercial wealth, even as these discourses were framed in terms of chivalric ideals. The princely court was neither merely a predatory expropriator of urban wealth nor a rapacious consumer of luxury goods, but also an active participant in the commercial economy. By examining the 'business' of a princely court, this dissertation seeks to contribute to our understanding of the socio-cultural manifestations of state and market formation during the late medieval and early modern era. This study is one testimony of how Europeans sought to make sense of, and more importantly, to channel and control the tides of commercialization, utilizing the institutional and cultural frameworks they inherited from their past. The intertwined relationship between the princely court and the commercial economy in the Burgundian Netherlands draws our attention to the common processes, institutions and cultures that laid the groundwork for the modern state and the capitalist economy.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Howell, Martha C.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 31, 2013