The PARDONS project


The PARDONS project (‘Topographies of Pardon Tales: Contextual Mapping of Pardon Letters in the Southern Low Countries, 15th-17th c.’) is a four-year research project funded by the BELSPO research programme BRAIN-be 2.0 and carried out by a team of researchers from the State Archives of Belgium, UCLouvain, and KU Leuven. The purpose of this project it to make publicly accessible the vast collections of pardon letters granted by the Burgundian and Habsburg rulers and available at the National Archives in Belgium, in order to provide an innovative history of power and social relations in the early modern Low Countries, including at moments of political and religious tensions such as the Dutch Revolt. These thousands of pardon letters are one of the most prominent items in the early modern archival heritage of the Low Countries, not only because of the richness of their narrative structures and legal contents, but also because of the exceptionally long time span they cover. These fascinating collections of stories of violence, conflict, and disruption of daily lives are an invaluable part of the material and cultural heritage in Belgium.

This project aims to digitize, index, and transcribe a coherent set of pardon letters from the State Archives of Belgium. Moreover, the creation of a dedicated web application will provide unlimited digital access to these letters to a large audience. Building on the thick description of the stories described in the pardon letters, we aim to reconstruct the discourses, legal strategies, and concerns of the offenders and how these offenders dealt with the revendications of the victims, who sometimes opposed the granting of a pardon. We also aim to map the power structures behind the use of pardons and show how the use of pardons served as an instrument of peace management, in response to social and political conflicts. By retelling the hidden stories from pardon collections, this project could even enable contemporary people to connect with a forgotten past.


Hans Cools (KU Leuven)

Eddy Put (AGR/KU Leuven)

Xavier Rousseaux (FNRS/UCLouvain)

Violet Soen (KU Leuven)

Scientific coordinator:

Quentin Verreycken (FNRS/UCLouvain/USL-B)


Belgian Science Policy (Belspo), 2.0 program