In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Reformations and Revolt in the Netherlands, 1500–1621

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works and Resources
  • Printed Sources for the Protestant Reformation
  • Printed Sources for Catholic Reform
  • Bibliographies
  • The Counter-Reformation in the Southern Netherlands after 1585
  • Catholic Reform in the Cities

Renaissance and Reformation Reformations and Revolt in the Netherlands, 1500–1621
Judith Pollmann, Alastair Duke, Geert Janssen
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 February 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0181


The Low Countries have a special place in Reformation history, both because of the great diversity of the religious landscape and because they experienced a genuine Reformation “from below,” as well as fierce repression of Protestant heresies. Protests against the latter helped to trigger the revolt that resulted in the split of the Habsburg Netherlands. In the northern Netherlands, the Dutch Republic gave the Reformed Church a monopoly of worship but also guaranteed freedom of conscience to dissidents. The southern Netherlands, once “reconciled” with the Habsburgs and having expelled its Protestant inhabitants, became a bulwark of the Counter-Reformation. For more on the revolt, see the Oxford Bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation article “The Netherlands (Dutch Revolt/Dutch Republic)” by Henk van Nierop.

General Overviews

No single work is available that provides a satisfactory and up-to-date general overview of the early modern history of both the northern and southern Low Countries. However, Israel 1995 is recommended for its clear and authoritative treatment of the formation of the Habsburg Netherlands as a whole as well as the socioeconomic and religious developments. Although it focuses quite explicitly on the northern provinces, the first part covers the period from 1477 to 1588.

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

    Remarkable for its encyclopedic coverage. Part 1 covers the period up to 1588 in sufficient depth to meet the needs of advanced students. The discussion is invariably well informed, wide ranging, and stimulating. Israel’s claim that the boundary between the United Provinces and the Spanish Netherlands confirmed longstanding structural differences is, however, controversial.

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