In the absence of a powerful state, how was coercive power established within, over, and by the cities of the Low Countries? Eleven chapters covering the medieval and early modern periods explore this theme from various angles. Some chapters detail symbolic contests or armed struggle, while others focus on industrial control by urban magistrates or their attempts to regulate servants and maintain religious orthodoxy. The essays suggest that the Netherlandic world, in which cities have always loomed large, may have followed a distinctive path of political development that characterized the urban belt of Europe more generally. As such, this volume aims to create new understandings of the place of the Low Countries in European history.