In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Netherlands (Dutch Revolt/ Dutch Republic)

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Source Editions
  • Journals
  • Biography
  • The Origins and Outbreak of the Dutch Revolt
  • The Dutch Revolt, General Accounts and Collections of Essays
  • New Perspectives on the Dutch Revolt
  • Building the Reformed Church
  • Calvinism and Toleration
  • Catholics, Protestant Dissenters, and Jews
  • The Institutions of the Dutch Republic
  • Warfare
  • Political Thought
  • The Economy and Public Finance
  • The Social Fabric
  • Urban Life
  • Immigration and Public Welfare
  • Gender
  • The Overseas World
  • The Culture of the Golden Age
  • The Visual Arts and Literature
  • Science, Technology, and Philosophy

Renaissance and Reformation The Netherlands (Dutch Revolt/ Dutch Republic)
Henk van Nierop
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 April 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 March 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0146


By the middle of the 16th century the Netherlands consisted of some twenty principalities and lordships, loosely connected under the rule of Emperor Charles V. The heir of the dukes of Burgundy, Charles ruled these lands as his own patrimony. They roughly covered the area of the present-day Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, as well as a strip of northern France. During the rule of Philip II, king of Spain (r. 1555–1598), Charles’s son and successor, a revolt broke out. From c. 1580 onward Philip succeeded in bringing the southern provinces of the Netherlands (roughly modern-day Belgium) back to obedience, while the northern provinces (roughly the area covered by today’s Netherlands) retained their independence. The northern provinces came to be known as the “United Netherlands” or the “Dutch Republic,” the southern ones as the “Spanish Netherlands.” What had begun as a rebellion turned into regular warfare between the Dutch Republic, on the one side, and Spain and the Spanish Netherlands, on the other. The so-called Twelve Year Truce interrupted the fighting between 1609 and 1621. It was not until 1648 that the belligerents finally concluded peace. After 1585 (the capture of Antwerp by the Spanish army), the Dutch Republic and the Spanish Netherlands gradually drifted apart as they became two separate states, and, even more slowly, they developed their own national cultures and identities. The consequence for historiography is that the history of the Netherlands until the end of the 16th century is best studied as a whole, while the histories of the Dutch Republic and the Spanish Netherlands during the 17th century are usually studied separately.

General Overviews

The topics of the Revolt of the Netherlands and the Dutch Republic form two distinct yet overlapping historiographical traditions. Israel 1995 and van Deursen 2004 cover the period of the revolt as well as the entire 17th century (with the former covering an even longer period). In focusing on the 17th century, Israel 1995 provides an overview that is by far the most comprehensive and authoritative. With more than 1,200 pages, it is also the most detailed study of the entire period. Concentrating on political events and religion, van Deursen 2004 provides a good introduction. Groenveld and Leeuwenberg 2008, richly illustrated, covers the entire period of the Eighty Years War. Prak 2005 and Price 1998 pay scant attention to the Dutch revolt, but they provide general overviews of the history of the Dutch Republic during its “Golden Age.” Prak 2005 is especially strong in social history, while Price 1998 offers a concise introduction to Dutch society and culture in the 17th century. Secretan and Frijhoff 2018 provides a wide-ranging up-to-date encyclopedic approach.

  • Groenveld, Simon, and H. L. Ph. Leeuwenberg. De Tachtigjarige Oorlog: Opstand en consolidatie in de Nederlanden, ca. 1560–1650. Zutphen, The Netherlands: Walburg Pers, 2008.

    Traditional narrative of the Dutch revolt as a struggle for religious freedom and against Spanish oppression, directed at a wide audience. With an extensive (thirty pages) guide for further reading. Richly illustrated, this is a revised edition of two earlier books by the same authors, De kogel door de kerk? (Zutphen, The Netherlands: Walburg Pers, 1979), and De bruid in de schuit (Zutphen, The Netherlands: Walburg Pers, 1985).

  • Israel, Jonathan I. The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477–1806. Oxford: Clarendon, 1995.

    More than 1,200 pages long and based on wide reading of secondary sources as well as original research, this is by far the most comprehensive overview, the indispensable starting point for teaching as well as research. The account of the Dutch revolt differs from that provided by other authors, in underlining the separate characteristics of the northern and southern provinces as a precondition for the revolt. With extensive bibliography.

  • Prak, Maarten. The Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century: The Golden Age. Translated by Diane L. Webb. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511817311

    Largely passing by the Dutch revolt, this is an introduction to the history of the Dutch Republic, with a strong focus on economic and social history, especially urban life and urban citizenship. With an elaborate bibliographic essay. English translation of Gouden Eeuw: Het raadsel van de Republiek, first published in 2002 (Nijmegen, The Netherlands: SUN).

  • Price, J. L. The Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century. New York: St. Martin’s, 1998.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-349-26994-5

    Very concise (171 pages) introduction; skillful summary of existing scholarship. Recommended for undergraduate teaching, with short bibliography.

  • Secretan, Catherine, and Willem Frijhoff, eds. Dictionnaire des Pays-Bas au siècle d’or: De l’Union d’Utrecht à la Paix d’Utrecht, 1579–1713. Paris : CNRS Éditions, 2018.

    The only encyclopedic approach to the history and culture of the Netherlands 1579–1713, this volume contains 450 entries, written by more than 100 specialists, covering an unusually wide array of topics, from the slave trade to oil painting, warfare to the production of cheese, and ice-skating to the Radical Enlightenment. An English translation is in preparation.

  • van Deursen, Arie Theodorus. De last van veel geluk: De geschiedenis van Nederland, 1555–1702. Amsterdam: Bakker, 2004.

    Well-written narrative of the period of the revolt and the entire 17th century, with an emphasis on political and religious developments. Contains concise guide to further reading. Directed at a broad audience.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.