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Royal Historical Commission of Belgium

Royal Historical Commission of Belgium. What it is and what it does. by Ludo Milis, President (2005-2007)

 Royal Historical Commission of Belgium.

What it is and what it does.


Official name:
In Dutch: Koninklijke Commissie voor Geschiedenis van België

In French: Commission royale d’histoire de Belgique


“Its task is to research, identify, edit and analyse written sources which are of interest to the history of Belgium, and to publish critical studies relating to these sources, as well as to provide working tools for historians.“ (1976)



•         Limited number: 12 (+ 9 honorary) members

•         Academic affiliation (Universities (9), State Archives(3))

•         Linguistic equilibrium

•         Membership considered to be very honorific


Edition Standards:

•         Edition Standards (especially for medieval Latin texts): 1955, Instructions pour l’édition des textes historiques – Voorschriften ter uitgave van geschiedkundige teksten. (most recent version on the website)


Some Historical Information:

•         Foundation in 1834 (shortly after independence)

•         Original goal: to prove national identity; antecedents in Austrian period (1770) and Dutch period (1827), always with the same scope.

•         French influence (Gachard) (first half century of its existence)

•         German influence (Kurth & Pirenne) (since late 19th c.)


Points of Interest:

•         Originally stressing Narrative Sources: chronicles...

•         Originally stressing the Middle Ages as the ‘most glorious period’, pushing national identity as far back as possible

•         Increasing attention for charters

–        Table chronologique des chartes et diplômes imprimés concernant l'histoire de la Belgique (= Wauters)

–        Later on: Actes des princes belges – Akten der Belgische vorsten

•         Increasing attention for other periods

–        Since 1854: 16th century;

–        After WW II: Contemporary history

•         Increasing attention for documents in foreign collections (Inventories of archival material in Vienna, Lille, Naples, Parma, Salamancas, Besançon, Moscou, etc.)

•         Increasing attention for other document types: cartularies, statistical documents, obituaries, cartography.

•         Increasing attention for representative institutions: Actes des États généraux des Anciens Pays-Bas – Akten van de Staten Generaal van de Oude Nederlanden.


Some Recent Publications:

•         W.P. BLOCKMANS Handelingen van de Leden en van de Staten van Vlaanderen, Regering van Filips de Goede (1419-1467).

•         G. CROENEN, De oorkonden van de familie Berthout, 1212-1425,

•         M.-A. ARNOULD, Les dénombrements de foyers dans le comté de Hainaut (XIVe - XVIe siècles). (Reprint)

•         Cl. BRUNEEL & Cl. de MOREAU de GERBEHAYE, Les gradués de la faculté de médecine de l'ancienne université de Louvain (XVIe- XVIIIe siècles)

•         J. TOLLEBEEK, Writing the Inquisition in Europe and America. The correspondence between Henry Charles Lea and Paul Fredericq (1888-1908)

•         B. and M. LYON, The Wardrobe Book of 1296-1297: A Financial and Logistical Record of Edward I's 1297 Autumn Campaign in Flanders Against Philip IV of France

•         Annual Bulletin - Handelingen   



•         Enhanced interest in other document types:

–        Illustrations (miniatures)

–        Ego-documents (correspondence, …)

–        Image and Sound: Audio-, video-, interviews

–        Maps

–        Inscriptions


Ongoing discussion about publishing format:

•         Printed: regular distribution or mere safety copies?

•         Reprints: anastatic or electronic?


Electronic Publications in the near future: 

–        Amsab (2007-8): Reports of Meetings of Belgian Workers Party in the Interbellum Period

–        NaSo (Narrative Sources of the Medieval Low Countries) (with Univ. Ghent, Leuven, Groningen) (2009)

–        ‘New Wauters’: full text edition of charters 1200-1260

–        Topodex: Digital Identification of Place Names

–        Complete Register Bulletin – Handelingen

Striving to guarantee free access and gratuity of electronic information


Contacts with Foreign Institutions: 

•         Artem (Nancy): Charter Editions

•         Ac. Inscr. Belles-Lettres (Paris): Monumenta Paleographica Medii Aevi: ( in preparation: Medieval Slates Villers Abbey, Liber Traditionum St. Peter’s Abbey Ghent)

•         Istituto storico italiano per il medio evo (Rome): Repertorium fontium historiae medii aevi (New Potthast)


Contacts with National Institutions:

•         The Royal Library, Brussels (hosting the website)

•         The General Archives

            - digitalization of original charters;

            - inventory of Vienna Archives: diplomatic correspondence Vienna-Brussels in the period 1770-1783

•         The Universities (through its members)

•         Research Funds (FWO-Vlaanderen, FNRS, DWTC) (Funding of projects)


(For all further information, see website: www.kcgeschiedenis .be or

Ludo Milis, President (2005-2007)