Doctoral Research on Flemish Related Issues

Amy Eberlin
Friday 20 February 2015

This posting reports on doctoral research that is being undertaken on Flemish related issues at the University of St Andrews and the University of Kent. The work of three doctoral students, described below, focuses on the medieval period which saw the main influx of Flemish people into Britain in general and Scotland in particular. 

Amy Eberlin is nearing the end of her studies at the St Andrews Institute of Scottish Historical Research.  Her research focuses on the Scots involved in Scotto-Flemish trade and diplomacy from 1320 to 1513. During this period, the relationship between Scotland and Flanders was largely based on the wool trade. The exportation of wool to Flanders was an integral part of the foreign trade of medieval Scotland. The Flemings used Scottish and English wools in the production of their textile goods. While Scotto-Flemish relations are a topic of great import, little research has focused upon the individual Scots who acted as ambassadors and traders with Flanders. Amy’s research provides a new perspective on Scottish involvement in trade and diplomacy with Flanders by examining shifts in control of Scotland’s export industry, and the lives and experiences of Scottish merchants and ambassadors. In particular, she is examining what happened to trade and cultural exchange after the Flemish were banished from Scotland under legislation produced in the fourteenth century. This work is likely to be completed at the end of 2015 or early 2016.

Morvern French is in the second year of her studies at the St Andrews Institute of Scottish Historical Research.  She is focusing on Flemish material culture in Scotland, c.1300-c.1550.  While wool was exported to Flanders from Scotland, the reverse flow of imports often took the form of high value goods. Her work has been influenced by anthropological theory, particularly that of gift exchange. Flemish objects exchanged as ‘gifts’ by Scottish elites – including tapestries, paintings, and munitions – tell us about the high status of these objects and also that of the identity of the giver. This approach to specifically Flemish objects is new to historical research. Morvern has also examined archaeological evidence in relation to Scotto-Flemish trade in urban and rural communities.

Silke Muylaert is in her third year of studies at the University of Kent.  Her focus is on the so called “stranger churches” in England.  These are churches that were established, following a granting of permission by English king Edward VI (in 1550), for strangers fleeing religious persecution in the Low Countries. By 1562 the Dutch speaking church in London, for instance, had between one thousand and two thousand members (mainly émigrés from Flanders).  Stranger churches—Flemish, Dutch, Walloon and French–were subsequently established in about a dozen other towns in England. Silke’s thesis is a comparative study of the churches’ reactions to the reformation and rebellion in the Low Countries. While Silke’s work focuses only on England, it is nonetheless helpful to the Scotland and the Flemish People Project in that it identifies the important phases of religious persecution related immigration to Britain.  However, there is no record of stranger churches having been established in Scotland.

Alex Fleming
February 2015

Alex Fleming is a sponsor of, and researcher in the Scotland and the Flemish People Project.  He is also the editor of the project blog.

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