To What Extent Was the Dutch Revolt a Political Conflict?

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To what extent was the Dutch revolt a political conflict?

When considering this question it is also key to consider who it was that was actually revolting and who or what they were revolting against. It is also important to consider whether the revolt was supported and carried out by all parts of Dutch society. Different secondary sources give varying interpretations of what the Dutch revolt was about. By considering the relevance of primary sources we can attempt to get a clearer idea of what was actually going on.

The seventeen provinces of the Low Countries were acquired by the Habsburgs in 1477 and Wallace notes that the region was “pock-marked with independent lordships and linguistically divided… and lacked administrative cohesion” (Wallace, p.139). Charles V depended on the merchant and noble elites’ cooperation in order to run an effective government; they regularly met in local estates and sometimes collectively in the “States General”. During this period the Netherlands were the most urbanised area of Europe and towns played a significant role in the revolt; Calvinism was able to develop with the material and intellectual infrastructure that they provided. Grell states that Charles V was able to reign in the Netherlands without the limitations put on him by the territorial princes in the Holy Roman Empire (Unit 8, p.113).

The Dutch revolt was political in that many believed that the Dutch way of life was being changed for the worse. In 1568 William of Orange, in his proclamation to the people of the Netherlands, stated that they had always been ruled in accordance “with their freedoms, rights, customs, traditions and privileges” and that they only had to obey their rulers if their “freedoms are maintained” (Anthology, 2.24, p.200). William was worried that should these freedoms be removed the Netherlands would lose the prosperity they had known before.

Problems had begun to surface when Philip II succeeded his father as king of Spain



Bibliography: Gibbons, Rachel C. (ed.) (2006) Exploring History 1400-1900. An Anthology of Primary Sources, Manchester, Manchester University Press Grell, Ole P. (2007) ‘Unit 8: ‘The Dutch Revolt: A Religious Conflict?’ in A200 Block 2, The European Reformation, Milton Keynes, The Open University. Wallace, Peter G. (2004) The Long European Reformation: Religion, Political Conflict and the Search for Conformity, 1350-1750, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

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