The most powerful and flourishing of all were those of Flanders —Ghent, Bruges and Ypres. In the 13th century these towns had become the seat of large industrial populations employed upon the weaving of cloth with its dependent industries, and closely bound up by trade interests with England, whence they obtained the wool for their looms. Bruges, at that time connected with the sea by the river Zwijn and with Sluis as its port, was the central mart and exchange of the world's commerce. In these Flemish cities the early oligarchic form of municipal government speedily gave way to a democratic. The great mass of the townsmen or ganized in trade gilds—weavers, fullers, dyers, smiths, leather workers, brewers, butchers, bakers and others, of which by far the most powerful was that of the weavers—as soon as they be came conscious of their strength rebelled against the exclusive privileges of the patricians and succeeded in ousting them from power. The patricians relied upon the support of the French
Crown, but the fatal battle of Courtrai (1302), in which the handi craf tsmen laid low the chivalry of France, secured the triumph of the democracy. The power of the Flemish cities rose to its height during the ascendancy of Jacques van Artevelde (1285 the famous citizen-statesman of Ghent, but after his down fall the mutual jealousies of the cities undermined their strength, and with the crushing defeat of Roosebeke (1382) in which Philip van Artevelde perished, the political greatness of the municipal ities entered upon its decline.
In Brabant—Antwerp, Louvain, Brussels, Malines (Mechlin)— and in the episcopal territory of Liége—Liege, Huy, Dinant—there was a more feeble repetition of the Flemish conditions. Flourishing communities were likewise to be found in Hainault, Namur, Cam brai and the other southern districts of the Netherlands, but no where else the vigorous independence of Ghent, Bruges and Ypres, nor the splendour of their civic life. In the north also the 13th century was rich in municipal charters. Dordrecht, Leyden, Haar lem, Delft, Vlaardigen, Rotterdam in Holland and Middelburg and Zierikzee in Zeeland, repeated with modifications the character istics of the communes of Flanders and Brabant. But the growth and development of the northern communal movement, though strong and instinct with life, was slower and less tempestuous than the Flemish. In the bishopric of Utrecht, in Gelderland and Friesland, the privileges accorded Utrecht, Groningen, Zutphen, Stavoren, Leeuwarden followed rather on the model of those of the Rhenish "free cities" than of the Franco-Flemish commune.