Research School for Economic and Social History


3 PhD Positions GOA Project ‘Lordship and Agrarian Capitalism in the Low Countries, c. 1350-1650’ (Ghent University – deadline 31 July 2022)

In the context of the GOA (Geconcerteerde Onderzoeksactie) funding scheme of Ghent University, a five-year research project will be launched in September 2022 by Professor Frederik Buylaert (promotor-spokesperson), Professor Thijs Lambrecht, Professor Dirk Heirbaut and Dr Jim van der Meulen (promotors). Bringing together the expertise of historians and legal scholars, this project engages with the ongoing debate on political economy in the Low Countries. For this project, 3 PhD positions are available.

Project Description

From an international perspective, the Low Countries are a natural laboratory of history in that this patchwork of wildly divergent landscapes and societies saw the precocious development of agrarian capitalism in some regions (esp. Coastal Flanders, the Guelders riverlands, Holland) whereas other regions saw the persistence of traditional peasant societies until the nineteenth century. Building on older debates on coercive surplus-extraction vis-à-vis markets, historians have speculated that the economic success stories of seventeenth-century Holland, for example, are rooted in the relative absence of seigneurial (‘feudal’) institutions that hampered economic development in most other parts of the Low Countries and Europe. While increasingly influential since the 1990s, this hypothesis has not yet received empirical scrutiny. The GOA-Project aims to remedy this situation by pursuing three lines of enquiry:

  1. Assessing the relative distribution of seigneurial institutions as a proxy for coercive surplus extraction in Flanders, Hainaut, Holland, Zeeland, Brabant, and Guelders, an approach that proceeds mainly from rich sets of feudal registers and pre-existing datasets (Work Package 1; lead researchers: Buylaert, Heirbaut, van der Meulen).
  2. Calculating the nature and scale of seigneurial surplus-extraction with detailed case-studies of seigneuries for which serial accounts survive (Work Package 2; lead researchers: Lambrecht, Buylaert, van der Meulen).
  3. Probing the regulatory constraints of seigneuries on markets for capital, land and labour and how this intersected with the growing involvement of the princely government. This line of enquiry revolves around the cross-checking of extensive sets of seigneurial regulations and ordinances issued by the administration of the Burgundian-Habsburg Low Countries (Work Package 3; lead researchers: Heirbaut, Lambrecht, van der Meulen).

A PhD student will be working in each of these Worck Packages. The PhD students will also be enrolled in the training programme of the Posthumus Institute, the Research School for Economic and Social History in the Netherlands and Flanders.


Applications are due by 31 July 2022; interviews of selected candidates has been scheduled for 12 August 2022. Applications should be sent by e-mail to Professor Frederik Buylaert. Full details are to be found in the full description (in pdf; see button below).