Future expectations and actions in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Low Countries. 01/10/2020 - 30/09/2024


This project investigates future expectations and the resulting actions in the 16th- and 17th-century Low Countries. The analysis of the contents and discourse of written future statements will verify whether the future began to be perceived as open and uncertain, resulting from the rise of capitalism and/or changes in beliefs. This project goes beyond the current research which focused on: 1) the revolutionary eighteenth century; 2) the rather obvious, canonical and learned texts written by the intelligentsia; 3) singular accounts of the future: divination, magic and the eschatological end of times, without looking into their interplay with other types of future expectations (for example, more short term or secular expectations); 4) only future expectations and not taking into account the relation between this thinking and the actions that it may have caused. This project mainly draws on a large source collection of merchant correspondence. The different collections of merchant letters will be searched for future statements which will be close-read, contextualized and entered into a database which will include variables about the discourse and future horizons of these expressions, the identities of the authors, and the actions motivated by the future expectation. The project has three key outcomes: 1) a fuller and more complex understanding of people's perception and framing of the future; 2) (dis)proving whether a shift in thoughts and beliefs about the future did occur and whether this is in line with narratives of modernity and the rise of capitalism; 3) much better insights in the relations between future thinking and the actions that may have followed out of it in the past; 4) a new methodology.


Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project