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Encyclopedia > Eighty Years' War

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Eighty Years' War

The Eighty Years' War, or Dutch Revolt, was the secession war in which the proto-Netherlands first became an independent country. It lasted from 1568 to 1648.

During the war, the Dutch Republic became a world power for a short time (mainly through its naval strength) and experienced a period of unprecedented economical, scientific and cultural growth.

Short history of the war

The Dutch provinces did not decide to secede all at the same time, and some never did (mainly what is now Belgium).

In 1500 Charles V was born in Ghent. He was raised in the Netherlands. When he abdicated in 1556, his son Philip II of Spain took over. Contrary to his father, Philip was mainly interested in the Spanish side of his empire.

Ca. 1550 Calvinism started becoming pertinent in the Netherlands. In 1566 many Calvinists stormed the churches to destroy the statues and images of Catholic saints, which they felt were heretical.

As a counter measure, Philip II sent the Duke of Alva, nicknamed the Iron Duke, to the Netherlands with an army to dam the protestant tide.

In 1568, William the Silent, stadtholder of the provinces Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht, tried to drive the highly unpopular Alva from Brussels. This he saw not as an act of treason against Philip II, which is reflected in the current day Dutch national anthem, the Wilhelmus, in which the last lines of the first stanza read: 'de koning van Spanje heb ik altijd geëerd' (I have always honoured the king of Spain).

There was very little support for the actions of William and he had to flee.

His co-conspirators, the counts of Egmont and Horne, did not flee, and Alva had them beheaded.

Alva also introduced an unapproved tax.

See also: William the Silent, Spanish inquisition, Union of Atrecht[?], Union of Utrecht, geuzen[?], Dutch Golden Age.



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