Closing the distance: Hanseatic traders in Holland and at the Great Council, 1525-1545

Activiteit: Talk or presentation at a conference


This paper looks at the theory of ‘social distance’ (simply put, the differences in
norms and beliefs) and ‘legal distance’ (differences in legal practices and
normative reference frameworks) pioneered in the field of law and economics, and
applies it to the involvement of foreign traders and actors, specifically GermanHanseatic and Nordic in legal proceedings at the main two ‘central’ courts for
Holland-Zeeland in the sixteenth century, the Council of Holland and the Great
Council. In the past, literature accounting for commercial development in the
Burgundian-Habsburg Low Countries has argued for the primacy of cities and their
legal institutions in promoting an environment conducive to trade. This has since
been contested, at least for late medieval Flanders, arguing towards a model of
complementarity and consultation between central and urban levels. I study
several cases of commercial conflict brought before the highest court of appeal in
the Low Countries, the Great Council, against verdicts and judgments from ‘lower’
courts in Holland-Zeeland between 1525 and 1545. This allows us to discern whether
concepts such as legal and social distance can help us in understanding the
reasons or strategies involved in choosing to litigate or appear at a central court
that is not one’s own. The paper finishes by concluding that closing, or attempting
to close, these legal and social distances help us understand why foreign
merchants were willing to take their case to and appear at courts that were not
theirs or their prince’s.
Periode25 mei 2023
EvenementstitelN.W. Posthumus Conference
LocatieAntwerp, Belgium