Jan van Arkel: Prince-Bishop during the Black Death
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This thesis is about Jan van Arkel, prince-bishop of Utrecht during the Black Death (1346-1353). I ask how the prince-bishop of Utrecht response to the Black Death was depicted in ecclesiastical and narrative sources, specifically in diocesan synods, charters in the name of the bishop, and later chronicles detailing the life of the bishop. This is important research because the Black Death in Utrecht has not yet been researched in-depth, and because there is a debate on whether, and for what reason, the Low Countries did not write about the Black Death as much as other regions. My approach to these problems is to evaluate a single person’s context and responses to the Black Death, rather than big data. I found that Jan van Arkel’s behaviour before the Black Death was often about increasing his authority and imposing public order on the diocese. Accordingly, during the Black Death he responded to the plague by creating an administrative tool to oversee future outbreaks, and tailor-made rules for a plague-stricken monastery. Narrative sources also presented him as a strong leader, detailing his military victories, survival of hardships, and his revenge on his enemies.