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Isabel Casteels MA

PhD candidate


Area(s) of interest: Dutch History, Early Modern History, Religious History & Theology, War & Conflict

Cohort/Start PhD: 2020-2021

Staging the Audience? Shaping Executions from Below during the Dutch Revolt (1560-1590)

Supervisor(s): Prof. dr. Violet Soen; Prof. dr. Johan Verberckmoes
Duration of appointment : 2020-2024

In my PhD project, I analyze the agency of execution audiences during the Wars of Religion in early modern Europe. The project has three objectives: (1) to account repertoires of audience behavior during executions; (2) to assess how the Reformation and religious wars changed audiences’ perception of – and participation in – executions; and (3) to examine how audiences shaped attitudes and execution practices of authorities. Overall, the aim of the project is to grasp the shaping role of execution audiences in the interplay of executions, Reformation, and state formation. As a case study, I focus on the revolt in the Netherlands, where the confessional and political strife of the period came into sharp focus. In this urbanized and literate part of Europe, executions became the dividing force between Protestants and Catholics, ultimately leading to a split into the Catholic south and the Protestant north. To assess the performative power of audience behavior, the project will compare and contrast eyewitness accounts of executions, published polemical sources, and judicial and administrative sources produced by the authorities.