The history of cities in the Low Countries at the end of Middle Ages is commonly presented as one of discontinuity in which old textile centres collapsed, and were replaced by new centres such as Antwerp, Leiden, Lille and Amsterdam which were in fundamental respects entirely unlike their medieval predecessors. This conventional interpretation is challenged with reference to Ghent and Douai. Neither suffered devastating economic decline, social trauma or political upheaval in the period, and both enjoyed a degree of relative economic success. Contradictions are also identified, especially the way that economic flexibility was associated with an intensification of social conservatism. This process not only helped produce a characteristically ‘early modern’ social order but also decisively linked the ‘medieval’ with the ‘early modern’ in these two cities.