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Robert Stein

Robert Stein

NIAS Individual Fellow

Project title

Culture of accountability in the late-medieval Southern and Northern Netherlands

Research question

My project investigates the process of isomorphism leading to a shared appreciation of financial accountability in the Southern and Northern Netherlands. I will examine the roots, the geographical and social distribution and adaptation of accountability during the crucial period of the Late Middle Ages, especially focusing on its financial aspects.

Project description

Accountability is a key concept in our society. Time and again we are asked to provide receipts and supporting documents. This may be annoying, but at the same time, a well-functioning system of accountability is crucial for the functioning of a complex society. During my stay at NIAS, I want to complete my book on the origins of our modern system of accountability. In it, I will address the explosive growth in administration and bureaucracy in the Netherlands and beyond, during the late Middle Ages. I will ague that his was both an expression and a consequence of centralizing state power. However, its meaning went far beyond mere princely aspirations to power and money. Careful financial administration was crucial for the whole of society. Within the urban communities, and later within the representative institutions, it formed a necessary precondition for social cohesion, and thus for political stability and economic prosperity.

Selected publications

Robert Stein, Magnanimous Dukes and Rising States : the Unification of the Burgundian Netherlands, 1380 -1480 (Oxford, OUP, 2017)

Robert Stein, ‘The Wilderness of Holland. From Hunting Ground to Well-Administered Part of the Domains’, in: C. Weeda, R. Stein, L. Sicking (eds.), Communities, Environment and Regulation in the Premodern World (CORN Publication Series 20) (Turnhout, Brepols, 2022) 147-176