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Title: Reform, revolution and royalism in Brussels, 1780-1790
Author: Illing, P. J.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2007
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The Brabant Revolution is often described as the sole conservative revolt amidst the revolutionary fervour of late eighteenth-century Europe. This analysis, based on overarching narratives of revolutionary contagion, misrepresents the Brabant Revolution. It was a purely political phenomenon, rooted in a long tradition of resistance to central authority, based on local privileges. This thesis is unusual in using both pamphlet material and unpublished archival material, and by devoting attention to the international context, key to the success of the resistance. In the political narrative of the revolt, Vonckists and Statists are seen as strands within a broad Patriotic coalition, opposed to Royalist reform. Within this reformist movement, some reformers rested their case upon Brabantine constitutional law, while others employed arguments derived from natural law and unfettered sovereign authority. There were natural lawyers and constitutional lawyers in both camps. Joseph II’s reforms of 1787 were neither unexpected nor unprecedented. They fit within a long train of reforming measures since 1748. Indeed, examining Bruxellois reaction to governmental reform over both reigns, it is noteworthy how much elite co-operation there was, right down to mid-1789. Compared to the Patriotic movement, this elite has not been much studied. The Brabantine elite was close-knit due to training at the University of Leuven, intermarriage and membership of the same institutions. However, discontent with Josephist reform tapped into existing conflicts throughout government, paralysing a destabilised administration. An impatient Joseph II was not prepared to compromise. His insistence on his sovereign authority and rejection of constitutional precedent removed the autonomy of his representatives, alienated allies and destabilised his administration. He destroyed a long-term co-operation between local elites and central government, culminating in the chaos of 1790. His successor, Leopold II, had to rebuild this consensus amidst an altered political landscape.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available