The Dutch Revolt (1566–1648) was the revolt in the Low Countries against the rule of the Habsburg King Philip II of Spain, hereditary ruler of the provinces. The northern provinces (the Netherlands) eventually separated from the southern provinces (present-day Belgium and Luxembourg), which continued under Habsburg Spain until 1714. The northern provinces adopted Calvinism and Republicanism whereas the southern provinces became wholly Catholic again due to the expulsion of Protestants and the efforts of the Counter-Reformation and remained under absolutist rule. The Dutch Revolt has been viewed as the seedbed of the great democratic revolutions from England, to America to France.
Prince Maurice at the Battle of Nieuwpoort by Pauwels van Hillegaert. Oil on canvas.
Holy Roman Empire
|Commanders and leaders|
William the Silent|
Maurice of Nassau
James VI and I
Philip II of Spain|
Duke of Alba
John of Austria
Duke of Parma
The religious "clash of cultures" built up gradually but inexorably into outbursts of violence against the perceived repression of the Habsburg Crown. These tensions led to the formation of the independent Dutch Republic, whose first leader was William the Silent, followed by several of his descendants and relations. This revolt was one of the first successful secessions in Europe, and led to one of the first European republics of the modern era, the United Provinces. Due to the nature of the conflict, the factions involved, and changing alliances, modern-day historians have put forward arguments that the Dutch Revolt was also a civil war.
King Philip was initially successful in suppressing the rebellion. In 1572, however, the rebels captured Brielle and the rebellion resurged. The northern provinces became independent, first in 1581 de facto, and in 1648 de jure. During the revolt, the United Provinces of the Netherlands, better known as the Dutch Republic, rapidly grew to become a world power through its merchant shipping and experienced a period of economic, scientific, and cultural growth. The Southern Netherlands (situated in modern-day: southern Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and northern France) remained under Spanish rule. The Dutch imposed a rigid blockade on the southern provinces that prevented Baltic grain from relieving famine in the southern towns, especially from 1587 to 1589. Despite achieving independence, from the end of the war in 1648 there was considerable opposition to the Treaty of Münster within the States General of the Netherlands since it allowed Spain to retain the Southern Provinces and permitted religious toleration for Catholics.
The first phase of the Eighty Years War can be considered the Dutch Revolt. The focus of the latter phase was to gain official recognition of the already de facto independence of the United Provinces. This phase coincided with the rise of the Dutch Republic as a major power and the founding of the Dutch Empire.