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Journal > Volumes > 42 (2011) / 4 (Winter)
“The field of finance”: War and Taxation in Holland, Flanders, and Brabant, 1572–85
Erik Swart
University of Utrecht

The Dutch province of Holland has solicited much research in the context of the link between war and political development, an important theme in early modern historiography. During the Dutch Revolt in the late sixteenth century it became the core and financial bedrock of a new, powerful, and very prosperous polity: the Dutch Republic. Why Flanders and Brabant, larger and traditionally wealthier, failed where Holland succeeded and were retaken by King Philip II’s army has never been explained. One difference was the structurally narrower political base in Brabant and Flanders; compared to Holland fewer people had a part and stake in the government. But the main problem in the former provinces was a structural lack of finances. From 1578 the war was right on top of them, which made the collection of newly introduced taxes impossible and attempts at administrative reorganization fruitless. War destroyed the tax base in Brabant and Flanders, while Holland’s taxes were the foundation of its success.

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