Michael Depreter

michael depreter

As a historian of politics and warfare, I am particularly interested in the development of late medieval and early modern polities which contributed to the shaping of our modern world. My PhD thesis, obtained from the University of Brussels (Université libre de Bruxelles), examined the dynastic state’s increasing monopoly of the legitimate use of violence in light of the emerging, and indeed quite costly, gunpowder artillery (15th- early 16th century). Through the case of the Valois-Habsburg use of gunpowder artillery as a tool for state-building in the Low Countries, I argued that the specific political culture of this densely urbanized area with strong traditions of political participation impeded the Valois dukes of Burgundy and their Habsburg successors from using the new weaponry’s full potential in terms of resource-extraction (money, manpower, strategic resources) to fulfill their ambitions of autocratic sovereignty.

On moving to Oxford as a postdoctoral researcher with a Wiener-Anspach Fellowship, I obtained a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship which allowed me to investigate the diplomatic side of state-building and resource-pooling in the densely urbanized Low Countries from a comparative perspective. My goal was to understand how the progressive loss of urban autonomy, under increasingly strong pressure from the dynastic state, forced merchant communities and other groups with interests abroad to develop precocious lobbying techniques in order to defend their commercial and financial interests as the dynastic state developed a monopoly of diplomacy, a process which was not only top-down but desired by some mercantile groups.

The Amsterdam case-study for which I am responsible within the ERC-project on the European fiscal-military system hence brings together my interests in political, urban, diplomatic, and warfare history. By examining how Amsterdam and the Dutch urban network developed as a hub for fiscal-military transactions, I will be able to further explore the interaction between merchant interests and state-building in a polity which (almost) got rid of its monarchy in the longer term (15th-19th c.).