1st Edition

The Voice of the People? Political Participation before the Revolutions

By Wim Blockmans Copyright 2024
    458 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    458 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Over the last two centuries, Europe has developed various forms of political representation from which democratic parliamentary systems gradually emerged. This book unravels the conditions, scale and impact under which political participation of common burghers and peasants emerged.

    Political participation in Europe before the Revolutions moved away from the traditional focus on ‘Three Estates’ which has often blurred the interpretation of popular participation’s role in societies. This book instead examines Europe’s key political variants such as high levels of commercialization and urbanization, combined with a balance of powers between competing categories of actors in society controlling relatively independent resources which lead to political participation forming across the continent. Instead of starting from any ideal type of political participation, this book focuses on the variation through time and space, its composition and activity, helps to explain the functions particular institutional settings fulfilled. The time frame 1100–1800 sheds light on the long-term evolutions such as institutional inertia and processes of oligarchizing. To reveal a correlation of economic and demographical growth with the claim of rising social classes to voice their interests. It also points to the opposite tendency: the formation of fiscalmilitary monarchical states.

    This book is essential reading for those interested in the formation of Europe’s political structures and students of premodern political history.




    Table of Contents

    List of Illustrations


    1.     Historical roots of political voice                                                                                                                  

    -        Voice and Representation                                                               1           

    o A Unique Achievement                                                     10

    o Continuity?                                                                         15

    -        The State of Research                                                                     19

    o Terminology                                                                       23        

    o Theoretical Points of Departure                                          25

    o Political Participation Today                                              30

    o This book                                                                            33



    2.     The Playing Field Is Demarcated: Communities and Political Landscapes


    -        Increasing differences in development                                           3

    -        The geographic environment                                                          6        

    -        The formation of political units from a dominant core                   13

    -        The imperial obsession                                                                   16

    -        Alliances of free communities                                                        20

    -        Coasts, Rivers, and Land masses                                                    26        

    -        The Political Geography                                                                 28

    -        The Playing Field                                                                            38



    3.     The Players: the Formation of Political Communities                                                                                                                

    -        Estates and their Representation                                                     3        

    o The First Estate: the Clergy                                                5        

    o The Estate of the Nobility                                                   9

    o Peace Movements                                                               12

    o Precedence                                                                          15

    -        Concentration of Power                                                                  24        

    o Counsel and Aid                                                                  24

    o England: the Early Kingdom                                              26

    o Dynastic Wars, Bad Kings, and Rebellious Barons            29

    -        Balances of Power: Catalonia and Aragon                                     38                   

    -        Dynastic Discontinuity                                                                   43        

    o Castile and León                                                                 45

    o Brabant and Castile                                                             48

    -        The Leading Actors                                                                         52


    4.     Game Changers: the Third Estate Makes Itself Heard                                                                                       

    -        The Italian Polyarchy                                                                      2        

    o The Astonishing North                                                        2        

    o The Social Composition of the Tuscan Population             13

    o The Papal States                                                                  16        

    o The South                                                                            17        

    o Balances of Power                                                               22        

    -        Popular Sovereignty in Flanders                                                     23

    -        Commercial Interests                                                                      33

    -        Peasants’ Voice                                                                               38

    o The common concern for water management

    in the Low Countries                                                          47        

    -        Core Concepts in the Political Debate                                            51        

    -        The Triangular Relationship: Prince, Nobility, Cities                    56        



    5.     Within the Lines: Institutionalized Political Voice                                                                                             

    -        The Vulnerability of Princes                                                           2

    -        The Iberian Cortes and Languedoc                                                 5        

    -        Abuse of Power and Tiranny in England                                        15        

    o Political Voice on War                                                        22        

    o Representation of the Land?                                               27        

    -        City  Leagues in the German Realm                                               32        

    -        The Microcosm of the Low Countries                                            39        

    o From the Meuse Region Urban League to the

    Land of Liège                                                                      39

    o The First Social and Political Revolution: Flanders           43

    o From City Leagues to the Brabant Constitutional Tradition 47    

    o Estates and Princely Ambitions                                          53        

    o Contrasts                                                                             57

    -        Expansion and Emancipation                                                         65                    





    6.     Spectators Invade the Pitch


    -        The First Religiously Inspired Revolution: Bohemia                     1        

    -        The Bourgeois Revolution in the Low Countries                           5

    o Church and Religion as Sources of Disruption                  10

    oThe First Sovereign Popular Representation                      13        

    -        Religious Polarization in the German Realm                                 27        

    -        Elective Kingship and Regional Power in Central Europe 41       

    oPoland                                                                                 41        

    oHungary                                                                               45        

    o Swiss Confederation                                                           46        

    -        Seizure of Power by the Privileged in France                                48        

    -        Republics Among Monarchies                                                       56

    -        The Reformation as Catalyst                                                          59        




    7.     Distribution of Gain and Loss                                                                                                                             


    -        Societies in Figures                                                                         2

    o   Numbers of People and Concentrations                              3

    o   Composition of the Population                                           9

    -        Forms of Aristocratic Rule in Central and Eastern Europe             16

    -        Balances of Power in the Holy Roman Empire                              31

    o A Dramatic Case: Saxony                                                   42

    -        Estates’ Members as Brokers in the French Periphery                   45

    -        The Subjugation of Catalonia and the ‘long sleep’ of Iberia          51

    -        Conclusion                                                                                      60        



    8.     The Champions and the Excluded                                                                                                                                  


    -        Sovereign Republics                                                                       1

    -        Revolution Turning into Oligarchy: the United Provinces             5        

    -        England and the United Kingdom: the Monarchal Republic          16

    o The Bloody Road to a Constitutional Monarchy                17

    o The Consolidated Parliament                                             27

    -        Sweden, a Separate Case                                                                 33

    o The Formative Period                                                         33

    o Royal Voluntarism and Parliamentary Opposition 36

    o Political Parties                                                                   44

    -        Colonies and the other Excluded                                                    50

    o Ireland                                                                                 51

    o North America                                                                    53

    -        Ascending and Descending Power                                                  60



    9.     Conclusions. Participation versus Effectivity       


    -        A Dash of Political Anthropology                                                                  1

    -        Phases of Expansion and Contraction                                                            4

    o Political Voice? The development phase, 1100-1350                                      5

    o Consolidation and trials of strength, 1350 -1600                               9

    o Constitutional Representation or Fiscal-military Monarchy, 1600-1800    15                                                          

    -        The fundamental dynamics                                                                            19

    o Emancipation and Stiffening                                                              19

    o Representation from below                                                                23

    o State Power                                                                                         25

    o Institutional Inertia                                                                             30

    o Continuity of Political Cultures                                                         33                               

    General Bibliography                                                                                                



    Wim Blockmans is Professor Emeritus of Medieval History at the University of Leiden, The Netherlands. His previous publications include the co-editing of The Routledge History Handbook of Maritime Trade around Europe 1300–1600 (2016).

    '[...] he aims to find an explanation for the way in which political participation has or has not taken shape over the centuries and in different places [the liberal revolutions before and after 1800].'

    Lauren Lauret, the low countries, 2024 - https://www.the-low-countries.com/article/the-struggle-for-political-participation-is-never-over