The Founding of the Dutch Republic: War, Finance, and Politics in Holland, 1572-1588
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In 1572, towns in the province of Holland, led by William of Orange, rebelled against the government of the Habsburg Netherlands. The story of the Dutch Revolt is usually told in terms of fractious provinces that frustrated Orange's efforts to formulate a coherent programme. In this book James D. Tracy argues that there was a coherent strategy for the war, but that it was set by the towns of Holland. Although the States of Holland were in theory subject to the States General, Holland provided over 60 per cent of the taxes and an even larger share of war loans. Accordingly, funds were directed to securing Holland's borders, and subsequently to extending this protected frontier to neighbouring provinces.
Shielded from the war by its cordon sanitaire, Holland experienced an extraordinary economic boom, allowing taxes and loans to keep flowing. The goal - in sight if not achieved by 1588 - was a United Provinces of the north, free and separate from provinces in the southern Netherlands that remained under Spanish rule. With Europe increasingly under the sway of strong hereditary princes, the new Dutch Republic was a beacon of promise for those who still believed that citizens ought to rule themselves.
and Habsburg were at war for twenty years.¹ Not since Charlemagne had any dynasty ruled over so much of Europe as the House of Austria.² France, the continent’s largest kingdom, with a population of between ﬁfteen and twenty million, was a natural rival. In Italy, Kings Louis XII (1498–1515) and Francis I (1515–47)³ battled the Habsburgs for the duchy of Milan, heart of the rich and populous Lombard plain: Milan changed hands ﬁve times between 1498 and 1535.⁴ In Germany, Francis I and Henry II
paraded to the main square in Brussels (the Groote Markt) for public execution.⁵ Among Calvinists, French speakers sought refuge in France’s Huguenot towns, or with Huguenot nobles. Netherlandish-speaking Calvinists swelled the ranks of existing refugee communities in London, Emden, or Wesel, where they were joined by people of more moderate religious views (Alba’s regime made life dangerous for those who had merely supported initiatives for religious peace, like the temporary closure of the
free imperial cities had a special legal regime that secured the rights of a Catholic minority alongside a Lutheran majority. In the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania, Catholic nobles joined their Protestant peers in preventing the episcopal courts from conducting trials for heresy. No one could say whether such arrangements were possible in the provinces that rebelled against Philip II. But many leading Orangists favoured a religious peace, ¹² and Orange himself ordered his largely Protestant
States General delegation offered a Religious Peace that Holland and Zeeland had already rejected. Though discussions dragged on for months (May–November 1579), the Gordian knot of religion blocked any chance of agreement.³⁵ For the next two years, military action was limited to surprise attacks by one side or the other on small or medium-sized towns, abetted by conspirators within. The reason was simple: neither Parma nor Orange could put into the ﬁeld an army large enough for a major offensive.
they did.¹⁰⁸ On 3 November Norris contracted to undertake the relief of Steenwijk; Holland would pay his men from a sum of 50,000 pounds in cash already promised to the Union of Utrecht. Reynier Simonszoon van Neck, Amsterdam’s receiver for the gemene middelen, was sent to Kampen to make sure that money coming from Holland was paid out only according to the orders of Holland’s commissioners there. North Holland at ﬁrst refused to assume responsibility for getting Norris’s regiment across the