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Will Phillips

Early Modern Dutch Language Resources

Understanding a language from four hundred-plus years ago is a challenge: spellings are not standardized, word meaning change, handwriting is alien, and idioms are lost. This is made more complex when English speakers must learn and translate early modern Dutch. Here are some resources I use.

Map of Northwest Europe, c. 1560

The Europe of the mid sixteenth century, at the dawn of the Dutch Revolt, was one of contrasts: a transitory peace between major powers with roiling social and religious turmoil about to boil over into war and carnage that would continue into the following century.

By this point in European history, you'll note many familiar names, but an equal number of borders and states that exist in vastly different ways in the 21st Century.

The Spanish Habsburgs & Their Governors

Holy Roman Emperor Charles V united the Low Countries under his personal rule and eventually abdicated in favor of his son Philip in 1555. From that point on, a revolving cast of Habsburg family members and close retainers would govern the Low Countries as the region descended into revolt and open war.

Ruckers Family Virginals and Harpsicords

The Ruckers family of Antwerp were active from the mid-1500s through the 1600s and are considered the "Stradivarius" of harpsichord and virginal makers. Their output was as much works of art as it was exquisite musical instruments.

Map of the Seventeen Provinces and Neighboring Domains

In 1548, much of the Low Countries (modern Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and parts of northern France) were brought together into a single political entity called the Seventeen Provinces - directly under the control of Charles V.

Though united by proximity, there were sharp divisions of history, culture, and language cutting through the provinces - divisions which would become highlighted by the political, religious, and military struggles which would follow.

Timeline: 1593-1619

Resurgent Dutch forces lead by Maurice of Nassau go on the offensive, setting the stage for a brokered Twelve Years Truce.

At the same time, the Humanist community at Leiden and Calvinist congregations grow in influence, leading to a cataclysmic confrontation in the Synod of Dort.

Timeline: 1568-1592

The Dutch Revolt had begun in earnest, and what began as a civil war evolved into a war for independence from Habsburg Spain by the northern provinces.

Timeline: 1548-1567

After decades of war and political maneuvering, Charles V united the Low Countries into the Seventeen Provinces in 1548. He'd later abdicate in favor of his son, Philip II, whose policies would stir the nobles and cities into open revolt by 1567.