Machtsmisbruik, collectieve actie en heerlijk gezag in het Land van Westerlo: het politieke proces tegen Jean Philippe Eugène de Merode in 1724 | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 23, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1566-7146
  • E-ISSN: 2667-1611



In 1724, the prosecutor-general of the Grand Council of Malines, the supreme court of the Austrian Netherlands, opened a judicial investigation into the marquis of Westerlo, one of the highest aristocrats in the Low Countries. It was alleged that he had abused his power against a peasant from Herselt, one of the villages in the marquisate of Westerlo. The investigation ultimately led nowhere, but its records do reveal frequent and far-reaching abuses of power against the inhabitants of the marquisate. Moreover, they show that the villagers were not powerless but could organise themselves in various ways against their lord’s coercive actions. Additionally, the case illustrates the gradual and growing penetration of the state apparatus into the administration of local seigneuries. Finally, this essay demonstrates the need for more research on the relationships between lords and villagers. This is a neglected field of inquiry although the majority of the population in the Austrian Netherlands lived in the countryside, large parts of which consisted of seigneuries.


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