Western Civilization^2 lesson 20

A) What were the causes of the Dutch Revolt?

Philip II, the son of Charles V, inherited the Netherlands in 1555 and Spanish kingdom shortly after in 1556. He was intensely Catholic, and unlike his father, was born in Spain. Consequently, he spoke fluent Spanish and inherited the Spanish culture. Philip II’s heavy handed taxation and anti-Protestant policies led to the Dutch Revolt in 1568.

Going back to the reign of Charles V (the Holy Roman Emperor), the Dutch were taxed to support the Holy Roman Empire’s many wars with its many neighbors. The Netherlands were wealthy due to the entrepreneurial people that filled the streets. The Netherlands also depended on trade, which led to politics that tolerated many freedoms and different religions. People got along, and therefore flourished. Some degree of autonomous government existed, reaching back to the guilds and merchant of the Middle Ages. Phillip II inherited this. However, he wanted central control. He was highly resented for this desire and for simply being Spanish and therefore having no ties to the Flemish people.

Phillip II was a staunch Catholic, and he felt that it was his duty to stamp out Protestantism because it was considered serious heresy to the Catholic Church. As a result, he demonstrated no toleration for anything except Catholicism in the Netherlands. He brought in the detested Inquisition which was cruel, erratic, and subjective. Soon after, Margaret of Parma, his half-sister who he had appointed to govern the Netherlands and hoped could help smooth things over, sent back to Spain to tell Phillip that the Dutch were uneasy and there was growing religious violence. Phillip’s response was typical:  more subjugation of those blasted Dutch Protestants by sending in the Duke of Alba, his right hand man. The Duke increased taxes by 10% and murdered dissenters right and left, even the nobility. This drove further unrest. Finally, Margaret of Parma washed her hands of the whole business, and William the Silent (who was one of the nobility who escaped beheading by fleeing the country) invaded with an army of Protestants, and the Dutch Revolt exploded.

Because Phillip II’s robbery through taxation of wealth of the Dutch people and his intolerance of religious differences, the Dutch Revolt was inevitable. Eventually, this led to the participation of other nations and independence for the Northern Netherlands.


B) What was the “Demonstration Effect?”

The Dutch Revolt began in 1568 under Phillip II of Spain. After England became involved and defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, Spanish power decreased substantially, especially in its outlying territories (including the Netherlands.) Eventually, beginning with William the Silent, the Northern Dutch provinces won back their independence and the Dutch Republic was formed. The Dutch Republic established a new standard of religious toleration and economic prosperity. No excess of rules and regulations bound the new economy. Culture thrived, the standard of living increased, and the arts blossomed. Europe sat back on its haunches and watched with curiosity. They asked themselves, “Would this work for other European nations?” The whole process of observing the Dutch phenomenon of decreased centralization and increased peace under the free market was called the demonstration effect.

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