Habsburg Peacemaking and the Making of the Revolt in the Netherlands

Lecture | March 16 | 4-6 p.m. | 201 Moses Hall

 Violet Soen, Rubens Chair for the History and Culture of the Low Countries, UC Berkeley; Professor of History, Leuven University

 Department of History, Dutch Studies, Rubens Chair for the History and Culture of the Low Countries, Institute of European Studies

The Habsburg strategy for the pacification of the Dutch Revolt went beyond the mere military strategy uncovered by Geoffrey Parker, as it equally entailed the alternative of diplomacy. Unlike the Black Legend of the Spanish struggle for undisputed world dominion, Habsburg strategy did not renounce the possibility of finding a mediated middle ground. From the outset of the civil and religious unrest in the Low Countries in 1566, members of the Habsburg regime were well aware of the fact that both military mobilization and mediation came at a cost. Hence, they ended up with a twin-track-policy seeking to increase the potential of military and diplomatic pacification strategies, yet making them profoundly ambivalent too. Even so, the Habsburg offer for negotiation caused constant discord amongst the rebels, culminating in the negotiated reconciliation of the Union of Arras in 1579 and the refusal thereof by the Union of Utrecht with the Act of Abjuration in 1581. These acknowledgements offer new evidence to the present reinterpretation of the Dutch Revolt as a civil war, since not only the decision to rebel but also the option to negotiate and reconcile caused deep divisions in society.

Violet Soen is a Professor in History at Leuven University, Belgium. She is this year's P.P. Rubens Visiting Professor at the UC Berkeley Dept. of History.

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Hans Vredeman de Vries, Allegory on the surrender of Antwerp, 1585