Rural social and economic history of the Low Countries has long been in the shadow of more dominant urban-focused histories. Perhaps this is unsurprising, given the high level of urbanisation seen in parts of the Low Countries from the high Middle Ages onwards. However, it may also be connected with problems in the discipline of rural history itself – arguably a major one being the tendency towards a) localism and b) description rather than analysis. Probably a way of rectifying this situation is by becoming more explicit and systematic with our use of comparative history – both in regions of the Low Countries, but also in creating links with wider historical processes across Western Europe as well. This paper makes a small contribution by bringing together important themes and ideas that have linked research in our various regions of interest over the past five years.