History of Flanders - Flanders in The Low Countries - The Eighty Years' War and Its Consequences

The Eighty Years' War and Its Consequences

Subsequently, Philip II sent the Duke of Alba to the Provinces to repress the revolt. Alba recaptured the southern part of the Provinces, who signed the Union of Atrecht, which meant that they would accept the Spanish government on condition of more freedom. But the northern part of the provinces signed the Union of Utrecht and settled in 1581 the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. Spanish troops quickly started fighting the rebels, but before the revolt could be completely defeated, a war between England and Spain had broken out, forcing Philip's Spanish troops to halt their advance. Meanwhile, the Spanish armies had already conquered the important trading cities of Bruges and Ghent. Antwerp, which was then arguably the most important port in the world, also had to be conquered. On August 17, 1585, Antwerp fell. This ended the Dutch Revolt for the (from now on) Southern Netherlands. The United Provinces (the Netherlands proper) fought on in what came to be known as the "Eighty Years' War", until 1648 – the Peace of Westphalia.

While Spain was at war with England, the rebels from the north, strengthened by refugees from the south, started a campaign to reclaim areas lost to Philips II's Spanish troops. They managed to conquer a considerable part of Brabant (the later Noord-Brabant of the Netherlands), and the south bank of the Scheldt estuary (Zeeuws-Vlaanderen), before being stopped by Spanish troops. The front line at the end of this war stabilized and became the current border between present-day Belgium and the Netherlands. The Dutch (as they later became known) had managed to reclaim enough of Spanish-controlled Flanders to close off the river Scheldt, effectively cutting Antwerp off from its trade routes.

First the fall of Antwerp to the Spanish and later also the closing of the Scheldt were causes of a considerable emigration of people from the city. Many of the Calvinist merchants of Antwerp and also of other Flemish cities left Flanders and emigrated to the north. A large number of them settled in Amsterdam, which was at the time a smaller port, only of significance in the Baltic trade. In the following years Amsterdam was rapidly transformed into one of the world's most important ports. Because of the contribution of the Flemish exiles to this transformation, the exodus is sometimes described as "creating a new Antwerp".

Flanders and Brabant, due to these events, went into a period of relative decline from the time of the Thirty Years War. In the Northern Netherlands however, the mass emigration from Flanders and Brabant became an important driving force behind the Dutch Golden Age.

Read more about this topic:  History Of Flanders, Flanders in The Low Countries

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