The Netherlands under Philip II.
Golden Age

The Dutch Revolt, 1579-1609

A Brief Summary of Military Events : In 1566-1567 the Low Countries saw a Calvinist Rebellion, which was quickly subdued. The repressive policy of the Spanish governor, the Duke of Alva, caused William of Orange, Baron of Breda, to leave the country and, from his base in Nassau, enter into a feud with the Spanish administration; he undertook three campaigns (1568, 1570, 1572). In 1572 Holland and Zeeland rebelled against Spanish rule; in 1573 Alva was recalled and his successors pursued a more conciliatory policy. The rebellion of Holland and Zeeland was settled diplomatically in 1576; yet a number of territorial estates, as well as city administrations outside Holland and Zeeland sympathized with the former and mistrusted the Spanish; when the ultra-Catholic, French-speaking territorial estates of the south formed the Union of Arras (1579), the north responded by forming the Union of Utrecht (1579), a defensive alliance established to promote their respective privileges. The Union of Utrecht marks the beginning of the General Rebellion.
The Spanish sent an army under the Duke of Parma, who in 1584-1585 conquered much of the south, and the situation for the rebels seemed desparate. With their leader, Stadholder William of Orange (the Silent) assassinated in 1582, they appealed for outside help and offered the crown to the monarchs of France and England. When the Spanish lost focus, dispatching the Gran Armada in 1588 and sending troops to save besieged Paris (1590, 1592) the Dutch regained ground. While Spain went through a financial crisis, the Republican forces expelled Spanish troops from the area north of the Rhine and Maas. In 1609 Spain and the Dutch Republic concluded truce.
For more detailed information, go to the Encyclopedia of Warfare, Dutch Revolt page.

The Formation of the Dutch Republic : The Habsburg Dynasty was the most powerful dynasty of her time; the fragmentized Low Countries, because of their economic significance, of central importance to them. Individual confessional groups, cities, estates or disaffected nobles could not hope to defeat the mighty Spanish army, as the series of largely unsuccessful revolts in the 14 years preceding the Union of Utrecht have shown; for the rebels of various backgrounds, the logical consequence was to team up.
Holland and Zeeland had recognized William of Orange as their stadholder in 1572. He declared himself to be a Calvinist in 1573.
The Union of Utrecht established a federal parliament, the Estates General (an Estates General for the Low Countries have existed since Burgundian times; what is new is an Estates General without a monarch as counterpart). In 1581 the Union of Utrecht declared no longer to regard King Philip II. of Spain to be their sovereign (Placaat van Verlatinge). Calvinism became the official confession of the nascent republic.

Domestic Policies : During the 1580es, survival was the dominating issue, overshadowing everything else. The constitution of the young republic had a number of flaws; the central authorities (stadholder, Estates General) were weak, depended on the voluntary cooperation of the provincial authorities, most notably that of Holland. Yet for the time being, this cooperation functioned.
When William of Orange was assassinated in 1582, the Dutch were so desparate to offer the crown to the monarchs of France and England - without success. The Dutch had a strong navy, the Watergeuzen (Sea Beggars); but on land the Spanish army seemed invincible; and it was not Dutch military strength, but Spanish financial weakness which was to decide the war in the 1590es.
Religious Toleration . The rebels fought not only Spain, but also the Counterreformation Catholic Church. In 1572, when Sea Beggars entered the town of Gorcum, they executed 19 Catholic priests and monks. In the 1580es and 1590es, when Republican troops liberated an area, Catholic service soon was banned, the Catholic church administration (dioceses etc.) abolished. Early on, while regarding Catholicism as suspicious, the Dutch Republic practised a policy of religious toleration; membership in the Reformed (Calvinist) Church was required for candidates for a political office. The Dutch Republic had no institution compatible to the Inquisition; the last case of a suspected witch being burnt on territory of the Dutch Republic occurred in 1597.
For more detailed information of the history of the Reformation in the Dutch Republic click here
Federation and Provinces . The Rebellion saw a number of constitutional changes. In the territorial estates, the clergy was no longer represented; in the Estates of Holland, the balance of powers shifted toward the cities. The territory of Drente was denied representation in the Estates General; the largely Catholic regions of States Flanders, States Brabant and States Limburg, were held under military administration (Lands of the Generality) and equally denied political representation in the Estates General.
The Dutch Republic officially was called Republic of the United Seven Provinces (Holland, Zeeland, Friesland, Utrecht, Groningen, Gelderland, Overijssel). However, these were by no means equal, as Holland was to contribute 57 % of the federal budget, Overijssel, by comparison, 3.5 %. The position of stadholder (of a province) was an appointed one; he depended on a budget to be approved by the Estates.

The Economy . The sack of Antwerp (1585) by the Spaniards caused a large outflow of refugees, many of whom settled in Amsterdam; with them, the center of trade on the Atlantic Coast moved from Antwerp to Amsterdam. The Blockade of the Schelde, imposed by the Dutch (until 1795) made sure that Antwerp did not recover her previous position. The merchants of Holland expanded their trading activity and network, at first in the Baltic Sea (Dutch shipping was more cost-effective, as it required a comparatively small crew), and from the 1590es onward into Transoceanic trade. After failing to find the North East Passage, in 1598 the first Dutch fleet sailed to the East Indies, beginning a lively and profitable trade in spices and other eastern products; in 1602 the V.O.C. (Dutch East India Company) was established, which, for the next century, would dominate Indian Ocean trade. Search for the North West Passage was equally unsuccessful.
While, during the Dutch Revolt (or Dutch War of Independence) Spain experienced state bankrupcy, the Dutch economy, especially that of Holland, experienced extraordinary growth. De Vries / van der Woude estimate the population of Holland for 1514 at 275,000, for 1622 at 672,000. The year 1600, for the Dutch, marks the beginning of her Golden Age.

Society . The Dutch Republic saw the arrival of numerous refugees, attracted by the prospect of safety from religious persecution, and perhaps of economic prosperity. In the 1580es, the majority of these refugees came from Flanders.

Website Article : History of the Netherlands : Struggle for Independence and Golden Age, from Wikipedia English edition
Dutch Republic History Site, scholarly bibliography, maintained at Univ. of Leiden, in English, links
De Tachtigjaarige Oorlog (The 80 Years War), from University of Leiden, in Dutch, detailed bibliography, links
Tilburgse lakenwerkers in Rotterdam, from Historie Tilburg, in Dutch; on late 16th/early 17th century (Tilburg clothmakers in Rotterdam)
Detailed narrative : History of Protestantism in the Netherlands, Chapter 18 of History of Protestantism by James A. Wylie (1878)
Biographies William the Silent, from Portraits of Faithful Saints, a Calvinist publication; another biography from
Maurice of Orange, from Museum voor Vaderlandse Geschiedenis (in Dutch)
Biographies of prominent persons related to the Dutch Revolt, from Ons Verleden (in Dutch)
for biographies of the Duke of Alva, see Netherlands 1500-1580, of Alessandro Farnese Spanish Netherlands
Biography of Simon Stevin, from MacTutor (History of Mathematics); from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913 edition; from BBC Online
Webpage on the taking of Den Briel, in Dutch, richly illustrated
De Rozekruisers in Holland in 1592-1622, from A.M.O.R.C. (The (Catholic) Rose Cruisers Order in Holland, 1592-1622)
Others The Martyrs of Gorkum (1572), article from Catholic Encyclopedia , on 9 Franciscans killed when the city of Gorkum was liberated by the Watergeuzen; another site related to the Gorcum martyrs, by Barry Bossa
Jetons : The Dutch Revolt, in Jetons, their use in History by Bert van Beek, scroll down
Text Documents
in English
The Wonders of the Most High, a chronicle of the history of the United Provinces, 1550-1675, by Abraham van de Velde
Dutch Declaration of Independence 1581, from the Modern History Sourcebook; as Plakkaat van Verlatinghe, from Historische Teksten, in Dutch
Documents in English, from Univ. of Southhampton posted by Dr. Alistair Duke / Univ. Leiden
Documents in Dutch, from Historische Teksten (Univ. Gent)
Een nieu Geuzen liedt boecxken, from A Hundred Highlights from the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Geuzen song book (1581), short comment in English
E.T. Kuiper (ed.), Het Geuzenliedboek (Geusen Song book; in Dutch)
William of Orange, Apology, 1581, addressed to the King of Spain, from AP Modern Euro, by Mrs. Mendelsund
Text Documents
in other languages
Dutch Revolt : Letters, from Golden Age Web, click : brieven, in French/Dutch; Documents 1477-1617, from Golden Age Web, click : bronnen, (in Sp./Fr./Dutch)
Contemporary songs and poems on the Dutch Revolt, from Ons Verleden, in Dutch
List of Mottoes from the period of the Dutch Revolt, with explanations, from Golden Age Web (in Dutch)
Maps Atlas Beudeker, Conquesten der Vereende Nederlanden (Conquests of the United Netherlands), posted by KB; click : bladeren, Atlas Beudeker; 134 maps, mostly of fortress towns, 1572 ff.
Map of the Netherlands in 1603, from Gardiner's Atlas of English History, 1892, political
Abraham Ortelius, Le Miroir du Monde, 1598 (Atlas), posted by MATEO (Univ. Mannheim), clickable maps of Belgia Antiqua, Cvyika, Kesselia et Pelia, Dvvelandia et Vornia, Falckenburgium, Flandria Maritima, Flandria, Flandria Imperialis, Flandris Liberae Territorium, Frisia Orientalis et Occidentalis, Frisia Occidentalis, Geldria, Groninga, Hannonia et Namur, Hollandia, Horna, Luczenburgum, Mechliniae Territorium, Nort-Hollandia, Partie Meridionale de Brabant, Transisalania et Velvania, Walcharia, Wasia, Zelandia, Zutphania, Zuytbevelandia
Paintings, Prints William the Silent : no. 1, no. 2, from Art istocracy
Duke of Alva, William the Silent, Alessandro Farnese, from Univ. of Virginia (Motley, Rise of the Dutch Republic)
The Duke of Alva in the Netherlands (1835), from The Wallace Collection
Egmond and Hoorne (1851), from DHM
Tyranny of the Duke of Alva, 1577, posted by Andrew Sawyer
Illustratioins from Custos, Dominicus, Atrium heroicum Caesarum, regum, [...] imaginibus [...] illustr[atum]. Pars 1-4.Augsburg: M. Manger, J. Praetorius, 1600-1602 : Prince Maurice, William the Silent, Lamoral of Egmont, Frederik Hendrik of Orange, future stadholder; posted by MATEO / Univ. Mannheim
Belägering der Statt Ostende, 1604-1605, posted by University of Glasgow
Coins etc. Jetons on negotiations to the Union of Utrecht, 1579, on an attempt to assassinate William the Silent, 1582, on the assassination of William the Silent in 1584, on the inauguration of Maurice of Orange as Count of Nassau, on the capture of St. Andrew by Prince Maurice in 1600, from Jetons, their use and history, by Bert van Beek (1986)
Sea Beggars' Medal, 1574, from Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, collection, 1250 major exhibits, encyclopedia, b, beggars, thumbnail picture in center
List of coins issued in the Southern Netherlands during the revolt : Francis of Anjou 1581-1584, Siege of Antwerp 1584-1585, Estates of Flanders, 1583-1584, Siege of Breda 1577, Siege of Maastricht 1579, Siege of Brussels 1579-1585, Siege of Tournai, 1581, Siege of Oudenaarde, 1583, Siege of Ypres, 1583, from, in Dutch, no images
Books The Dutch Revolt, pp.219-222, and : Golden Age of the Dutch Republic, pp.260-271 from : John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe
Jan de Vries and Ad van der Woude, The First Modern Economy. Success, Failure, and Perseverance of the Dutch Economy, 1500-1815, Cambridge : UP 1997, KMLA Lib.Sign. 330.9492 V982f
A.T. van Deursen, The Dutch Republic 1588-1780, pp.143-220 in : J.C.H. Blom & E. Lamberts (ed.), History of the Low Countries, NY : Berghahn 1999, KMLA Lib.Sign. 949/3 B653h
Karel Davids and Jan Lucassen (ed.), A miracle mirrored. The Dutch Republic in European Perspective, Cambridge : UP 1995, KMLA Lib.Sign. 949.2 D251a
Jonathan Israel, The Dutch Republic. Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477-1806, Oxford : Clarendon 1995, KMLA Lib.Sign. 949.2 I85t
John Lothrop Motley, The Rise of the Dutch Republic, Pt.I, from Historical Text Archive, Online Book
Maarten Prak, The Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century, Cambridge : UP 2005, KMLA Lib.Sign. 949.2 P898d
J.L. Price, The Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century, NY : St. Martin's Press 1998, KMLA Lib.Sign. 949.204 P945d

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First posted in 2000, last revised on May 18th 2006

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