The Political Rediscovery of the Dutch Revolt in the Seventeenth-Century Habsburg Netherlands


  • Jasper van der Steen



memory politics, Revolt of the Netherlands, conspiracy of the nobility (1632), Franco-Spanish War (1635–1659), War of Devolution (1667-1668)


Historiography of the Dutch Revolt has traditionally emphasised that it was painful and inopportune for seventeenth-century people in formerly rebellious South Netherlandish provinces to use memories of the rebellion in support of political arguments. More recently, scholars have turned this idea on its head by stressing the importance of memories of the Revolt in legitimating dynastic power as well as denigrating enemies around 1600. References to the conflict were often euphemistic, implicit and devoid of detailed discussions of events. Later in the seventeenth century, however, Southern propagandists publically deployed explicit references to the Revolt in political discussions. Asking how and why this shift occurred, this article shows that the (international) political context strongly influenced cultural memory politics in the Habsburg Netherlands. Count Henry van den Bergh's political use of war memories in opposition to the Habsburg overlord in 1632 prompted a reaction in kind from government officials, who deployed public references to the sixteenth-century rebellion more explicitly than ever before and thereby set a new standard for using historical narratives about the Revolt in support of the regime. Indeed, the politicisation of the Revolt in 1632 enabled political commentators during renewed Franco-Dutch military threats in 1635 and the War of Devolution in 1667-1668 to refer to the Revolt not as a painful memory but as a positive argument in favour of Habsburg rule.


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How to Cite

van der Steen, J. (2017). The Political Rediscovery of the Dutch Revolt in the Seventeenth-Century Habsburg Netherlands. Early Modern Low Countries, 1(2), 297–317.