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9th European Social Science History Conference Glasgow, Scotland, UK Wednesday 11 - Saturday 14 April 2012
 
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Programme

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Wednesday 11 April
   8.30 - 10.30
   11.00 - 13.00
   14.00 - 16.00
   16.30 -18.30
Thursday 12 April
   8.30 - 10.30
   11.00 - 13.00
   14.00 - 16.00
   16.00 - 18.30
Friday 13 April
   8.30 - 10.30
   11.00 - 13.00
   14.00 - 16.00
   16.30 - 18.30
Saturday 14 April
   8.30 - 10.30
   11.00 - 13.00
   14.00 - 16.00
   16.30 - 18.30

All days

Industrious and/or Religious. Motivating the Choice for Living as a Beguine in (Low Countries, early Modern Period)
The beguine movement is in many ways one of the most remarkable movements in the history of the Low Countries. The “institutionalized” form –following after a period of informal gathering of individual women from the 1éth century onwards- whereby the beguines started to organize as a real community, with their own regulation, collective property and identity, dates from the middle of the 13th century, and varied in size from the smaller convents to the large, extensive courts that comprised virtually all necessary functionalities of a small city, usually situated just outside the city walls, sometimes within. The most active period in the Southern Netherlands in terms of foundation of new “settlements” was in between 1230 and 1320, with up to nearly 70% of the pre-revolt established beguines, and most of them in the form of a convent. In comparison with a “normal” convent/nunnery the number of contemplating women was much larger in many cases; whereas super-large beguinages as in Gent or Malines, with hundreds and at times even thousands of inhabitants (the beguinage of malines was comprised of 1500 to 1900 beguines in the late 15th-first half 16th century), even the more “modestly” sizes beguinages often outnumbered nunneries who had no more than 60 nuns within their confines. A few years ago, the beguine movement “officially” ended with the death of the last beguine in Ghent. Some have referred to this remarkably long and peculiar movement as the first feminine revolution, others have been puzzled by the architectural peculiarities that it brought along, and which are still visible in the urban landscape of many Belgian and Dutch cities today. Nevertheless, the whole movement still remains to be explained. Factors such as the sex-ratio (The Frauenfrage-debate), diminished access to convents and the religious revival of the Late Middle ages have been put forward as explanations but they remain insufficient to explain the popularity in the long run, the regional concentration of the movement and the particular form in small intra-urban settlements (courts). In this paper I examine the role of the attitudes towards in particular single women in the Low Countries as a consequence of their position within the household and the labour markets, and I explain how the position of single women contributed to the growth of the beguine movement in the Low Countries. The results in the paper are based on a very large dataset of biographical data of more than 13.000 beguines in the Early Modern Low Countries (living in particular in beguinages in Flanders and Brabant).