Batavian Republic - Aftermath - Historiographical Note

Historiographical Note

According to the British historian Simon Schama the Batavian Republic has been controversially treated by historians. After the end of the Nazi-Occupation of the Netherlands during World War II there were some who saw a historical parallel between the N.S.B and the Patriot revolutionaries, while they pictured William V in the heroic role of Queen Wilhelmina and her government-in-exile. Dutch historian Pieter Geyl opposed such comparisons in his Patriotten en NSBers: een historische parallel (1946).

Still, by that time the Batavians had already had a bad press in Dutch history writing. This may be explained by the fact that the ages-old ideological struggle between the monarchically oriented Orangist party and its successive opponents of a more "republican" bent (going back to at least the conflict between Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and Prince Maurice), of which the Patriots were only the latest incarnation, was being refought in the standard works of 19th-century Dutch historians like Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer, who saw plenty to despise in the "popular-sovereignty" philosophy of the Patriot radicals. In his turn Groen was very influential on the way John Lothrop Motley depicted the old Dutch Republic for an American audience. Motley did not get to deal explicitly with the Batavian Republic, but the way his collaborator William Elliot Griffis dismissed the Patriots speaks for itself:"...whether under the name of the 'Batavian Republic', the Kingdom of Holland, or the provinces of the French empire, the French occupation was virtually a French conquest that had little permanent influence on Dutch history or character."

However most, if not all, characteristics of the current centralized state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands were foreshadowed by the accomplishments of the Batavian Republic, not least the liberal 1848 Constitution. That constitution restored the central tenets of the democratic Staatsregeling of 1798, under the guise of a Constitutional monarchy, as its author Johan Rudolf Thorbecke acknowledged.

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