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Spanish ears on rebel hats, local memories of the Dutch Revolt: 1572-1648. The case of Waterland mid seventeenth century

Erika Kuijpers, lecturer and researcher
Pays basque
Structure de recherche associée à la MRSH : HISTEMÉ
Date : 04/04/2013
Lieu : MRSH
Durée : 35:17

Cette communication a été enregistrée dans le cadre du colloque international Cultures orales, histoires et mémoires des révoltes et contestations populaires en Europe, XVe-XVIIIe siècles organisé par le Centre de Recherches en Histoire Quantitative (CRHQ-UMR 6583 CNRS) de l'Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, avec la participation de la British Academy, l'Université d'Oxford, la Society for the Study of French History et la Maison Française d'Oxford, qui s'est tenu à Caen du 3 au 5 avril 2013.

Erika Kuijpers obtained her Ph.D. degree in Utrecht in 2005 for a dissertation on migrants and social relations in seventeenth-century Amsterdam. From 2004-2008 she worked in Utrecht as a post-doc researcher into labour markets and labour relations in Holland before 1600. Since 2008 she works as lecturer and researcher at Leiden University. Her research is on personal memories of the Dutch Revolt which is part of the VICI research project Tales of the Revolt. Memory, oblivion and identity in the Low Countries, 1566-1700, that is funded by NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research), on which more information can be found through http://www.earlymodernmemory.org/


In 1568, the 17 provinces of the Low Countries, ruled by the Habsburg King of Spain, Philips II, got involved in a civil war, also known as the Dutch Revolt, that officially ended with the recognition of two separate states in 1648: the Dutch Republic in the North and the Habsburg Netherlands in the South. The success of the Revolt in the province of Holland was very spectacular. Especially the guerrilla warfare by the rebels of the first years of civil resistance captured the imagination of future generations. Local oral traditions told of successes which were owing to the cunning schemes and tricks of local people. There are attacks on Spanish troops by soldiers hidden in peat barges, beer barrels or disguised as farmer's wives. Very prominent in many stories was also the role of the watery landscape that was used by the Hollanders to their advantage. We know of these stories because some of them became widely known and ended up in one of the many published histories of the Revolt that appeared from the late sixteenth century onwards. Yet more often they were written down in local histories or memoires that appeared quite late, from the 1640's onwards. By that time the children of the ‘war generation' started to get old themselves. Presumably this motivated some of them to collect and write down local memories and preserve the old people's tales for the next generations. Most of these texts were written by middle class locals, who functioned as intermediaries between supra-local intellectual or religious mnemonic communities and local oral tradition. By that time, there was a supra-local, ‘national' canon of Revolt history in existence, which emphasised the suffering of the innocents, the tyranny of the Spanish suppressor or moral superiority and heroism of the Hollanders. In this paper I will analyze how an author from Zaandam in Waterland, a little North of Amsterdam, wrestled with the fact that local narratives did not fit really well with the canonical tradition. Instead, locals describe war as a daily struggle for survival, as a time of chaos, insecurity, and opportunism. Most people had been far more concerned with material conditions than with abstract religious or civil ideals. Most local heroes did not meet the standards of ‘national' heroism: self-sacrifice was not their thing, to the contrary: in order to survive they answered violence with more violence and did not hesitate to maltreat the enemy - even when the enemy were the inhabitants of a neighbouring village.


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