Discrediting the Dutch

A French Account of the Year of Disaster for Arab Audiences


  • Rosanne Baars University of Amsterdam
  • Josephine van den Bent Radboud University Nijmegen




pamphleteering, public diplomacy, Aleppo, Ottoman Empire, Louis XIV, Year of Disaster (1672)


Recent historiography has demonstrated how Istanbul became part of a European media landscape in the seventeenth century. This article argues that European countries not only targeted the Ottoman Porte but also tried to reach Arabic-speaking audiences in other major Ottoman cities, such as Aleppo. It does so through an analysis of a remarkable source, an Arabic manuscript pamphlet written by a Frenchman in Aleppo in January 1673, which tells the story of the exploits of Louis XIV in the Dutch Republic during the Year of Disaster. The article will demonstrate the ways in which the French author attempted to discredit the Dutch in the eyes of the inhabitants of Aleppo. An attached Arabic translation of a Neolatin political fable in verse shows the way by which the author imported a European discourse and a European way of influencing audiences to seventeenth-century Syria. The French saw benefits in expanding their ‘image battle’ into the Ottoman Empire and made a conscious attempt to make their propaganda as effective as possible. By studying this pamphlet, we can also further our understanding of the way early modern pamphleteers considered their audiences.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Rosanne Baars, University of Amsterdam

Rosanne Baars is lecturer in History at the University of Amsterdam. Her most recent book, Rumours of Revolt. Civil War and the Emergence of a Transnational News Culture in France and the Netherlands, 1561-1598, will be published by Brill in May 2021. She has also published on maritime history and Dutch-Ottoman diplomacy. Her research interests include the reception of news and media, diplomatic history, early modern France, and the Ottoman Empire.

Josephine van den Bent, Radboud University Nijmegen

Josephine van den Bent is postdoctoral researcher at the history department of Radboud University Nijmegen, investigating water management in Middle Eastern cities (c. 700-1500) as part of the NWO project ‘Source of Life’. Her PhD thesis (University of Amsterdam, 2020) analysed the representation of the Mongols in the Mamluk sultanate of Egypt and Syria, c. 1250-1350. Her research interests include ethnic stereotyping, urban organisation, and the medieval and early modern Middle East. She is also editor-in-chief of the semi-academic journal ZemZem. Tijdschrift over het Midden-Oosten, Noord-Afrika en islam.




How to Cite

Baars, R., & van den Bent, J. (2020). Discrediting the Dutch: A French Account of the Year of Disaster for Arab Audiences. Early Modern Low Countries, 4(2), 181–204. https://doi.org/10.18352/emlc.145