January 10, 2009

Law Enforcement

Johann Van Banchem was one of the people involved in the lynching of the prominent Dutch statesmen Cornelius and Jan de Witt in 1672, Van Banchem was awarded for his part in the murder with an appointment as Bailiff in the Hague. Eventually though he fell foul of the authorities there for the way that he exerted his authority in the Hague and was himself imprisoned in 1576, eventually dying in prison, after numerous appeals (which had not finished at his death) twenty years later. The story is simple and you might say is a morality tale of a kind- but it is more interesting than that, because the later bit of it, the charges against Van Banchem as a magistrate, illustrate the way that bailiffs had to operate in 17th Century Holland and the way that they had to get close to the criminals that they were supposed to control.

Pieter Wagenaar and Otto Van Meij wrote a fascinating paper on Van Banchem than analyses his methods in exerting his authority in the Hague and the way that he used it. Part of his job involved the supression of what we might loosely term 'sexual morality': he was supposed to stop prostitution, adultery and fornication amongst the population of the Hague. The Republic (in common with other seventeenth century regimes- England in the 1650s is a good example) had made such activities illegal and expected their magistrates to make an effort to suppress them- we should understand that in the context of the Dutch effort to create a civic sober society. Van Banchem was later accused of consorting with prostitutes, allowing brothels (including within his own house) and letting men off with payments of large fines.

For a moment it is worth considering how he got into this situation- and what Wagenaar and Van Meij show is that he got into this position in the course of his normal legal duties. The problem in the seventeenth century was that adultery left no incriminating traces- a man might always deny his offence unless you caught him in the actual act. Without a large investigatory police force or modern forensic techniques, in order to prosecute, Van Banchem and his fellow magistrates had to rely on informers- normally amongst the city population of prostitutes. Van Banchem often sought to put up these prostitutes in houses that he knew- where he could conceal himself and his officers. Sometimes this meant concealing them in his own house and trapping the offenders there. Setting up brothels and consorting with prostitutes was a consequence of lacking the power to investigate crimes. Likewise when Van Banchem took bribes to stop a case proceeding to court- what he was doing was not uncommon in Holland- he was protecting the social structure at the price of the moral law, two sets of values came into conflict and Van Banchem like most magistrates knew that over zealotry was not what was required in cases involving significant gentlemen.

There are aspects of the Van Banchem case which to a Dutch 17th Century eye would look suspicious- he did for instance (after his wife's death) invite a former prostitute into his house as his maid and let her sleep in the room next to his. Other 'offences' we can clearly see were related to the internal politics of the Hague: Van Banchem was accused of imprisoning offenders in his own house- he did that because of a jurisdictional conflict between the Supreme Court of the Hague and the aldermen of the town about where prisoners should be kept. Van Banchem's prosecution also has to be related to his political situation- eventually he upset important factions within the town. The issue is that most of what he did, he had to do in the normal course of his duties- it was impossible to attack the problems that he was expected to attack without using informers, possibly framing suspects, in the context of the Hague using his own house as a prison and a brothel: furthermore his position exposed him to the danger of intimacy with prostitutes and therefore to the temptation to his maid-mistress. What I think is interesting about this is how easy it was to prosecute a magistrate for performing what many others were doing- if Wagenaar and Van Meij are right, what we have here is a fascinating situation which reveals a lot about early modern law enforcement- particularly in the area of sexual morality.

What it reveals is that in order to enforce sexual laws, the magistrate had to find informers from inside the class of those who broke the sexual law. To stop adultery he had to locate and use the women with which men most usually committed adultery- prostitutes. To maintain the social structure, he had to bend the law occasionally. To play the political game aright, he had to be sensitive to competing claims and avoid offense- sometimes this would involve ignoring potential problems and dealing with issues sine jure. We can see all this in the Van Banchem case because we have the records of the court: but I (like Wagenaar and Van Meijj) would suggest this happened a great deal more than it might appear.

When Lear says 'Hark in thy ear, change places, and handy dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief', he may have meant more than our modern glosses might have it. To be a judge in the early modern period meant getting very close to the criminal as you sought to find him, prove his offence and punish him.

January 09, 2009

Old Bailey Wiki

I have often, as probably you have noticed, used the Old Bailey website as a repositary of interesting information to supply material for posts: I hope that historians are using it in the same way for more proffessional work. Its incredibly heartening therefore to see via Early Modern Notes that a wiki has been started about the proceedings: it will add information on the trials, on who was there, what they were doing at the same time and at other points in their lives and other interesting material. If it succeeds, it could become an indispensible resource. If you ever find someone that you have some information upon in the Old Bailey online records, I suggest you go across and add that information to the Wiki, so that everyone can profit from it and use it in order to further their own research- this seems to me to be a really good idea.

Its also an interesting idea because it illustrates how the web can be used by academics. Beyond devising things that other academics can use- an important branch of the use of the web by academics- I'd personally like to see academics using the web more often. In history for example I think it can provide a useful way of academics engaging with a wider public- historians who wrote blogs could contribute to helping others to understand the subject. A blog like this in a way tries to do a little of that- but there are far better historians out there than me and quite often all I do is rely on the research of others and supply my own thoughts. There are some really good historical blogs of course- but it should be more mainstream within the historical community and other academic disciplines- there are some great blogs out there, but there is space for increase as well. As a new generation, we are told, makes the transition to the web- its important that this medium is used as a way of publically educating people to understand the world around them. Furthermore in the world of the long tail, the web performs a useful function where people who might be interested in a subject, but unable for geographical, employment or other reasons from accessing that subject normally, can access it through the click of a mouse and the movement of a cursor.

The world of academia should not be confined to a discussion within the ivory towers- but should look outwards.

Welfare, Religion and Immigration

One of the major problems of modernity is the difficulties related to concentrations of wealth, immigration and the demands of the poor for welfare. Poor immigrants migrate to richer regions in pursuit of higher wages and thus face universal welfare states with the challenge of how to treat them until they too grow richer. That problem is visible in the United States, Western Europe and even Eastern China: it will probably become a problem in India soon and underlies some of the issues in Israel and Palestine. It is a very interesting and difficult issue for policy makers- and yet it is assumed that it is a new problem, it is not- and I think it is interesting to look at an older treatment of the same issues in the 17th Century Netherlands- not because the alternative is neccessarily better but because it is an alternative way of thinking about the issues that we all face today.

The Netherlands in the 17th Century was an incredibly rich economy- it retained its dominance of the poor trades I noted below- and extended that dominance into luxury goods, like imports from the Americas and Indies. The effect on wages within the Netherlands was dramatic- whereas after 1590 in Western Europe the general trend was for living standards to fall- in the Netherlands wages continued to rise. In 1585 wages in the north were similar to those in the south, by 1609 Willem Usselincx warned that wages were making Dutch industry uncompetitive. Wages in Leiden for example were more than 50% higher than those in Ghent or Bruges for the same jobs. At Antwerp, a high wage city in the south, a bricklayer might earn between 12 to 14 stuivers a day, in Leiden, Delft or Alkmaar such a labourer earned 22 to 24 stuivers a day. The Southern Netherlands had higher wages than Germany, France or England at this point- and despite higher taxes and rentals, it is true to argue that the Northern Netherlands was in general wealthier than the south or any other area within Europe.

What this caused was massive immigration to the north across the century. Recalling that most cities in the early modern period saw no natural increases and increased generally due to immigration, the figures for increases in Dutch cities are incredible across the period we are discussing. Amsterdam's population went from 30,000 in 1570 to 140,000 in 1647- the space of a lifetime. Leiden's population quadrupled in the same period. The Hague's population went from 5,000 to 18,000 people. Haarlem, Rotterdam and Middleburg's population tripled. Enkhuizen, Doordrecht and Hoorn doubled in size. It is quite incredible to think in that case of the repeated plagues that destroyed the Dutch urban population in this time- in 1602 it is estimated that 15% of the population of Amsterdam died whilst epidemics afflicted Leiden about once every ten years. Main sources of immigrants included of course the rural Netherlands, but also the southern Netherlands, Lutheran Germany and England. Within the Republic you ended up with two economies though- one based on the maritime West which thrived and the other on the rural East which declined relatively in the early 17th Century.

We have therefore wage disparity and we have massive immigration- the problem that the Dutch government faced from this was a pretty interesting one and its a familiar one, how do you create out of the immigrants that come in a citizen body. The Dutch had at least one answer that ressembles thinking at the moment: they generally based their distribution on historical lists- stopping payments from going to new immigrants. New Immigrants could not expect any money- they were expected to find jobs as they arrived. One thing that the Dutch had which modern societies do not neccessarily have was that the pull to the Netherlands was in part an ideological pull- towards a republican Calvinism that attracted migrants from the southern Netherlands and the rest of the Protestant Northern European landmass. But what they also used was welfare. Welfare in the Netherlands was, as Sir William Temple argued, far in advance of anything else seen in Europe. One English observer compared the Dutch mental hospitals to the houses of noblemen in England, Cosimo de Medici, son of the Duke of Tuscany, was astounded, reporting on the cleanliness and good order in which inmates were kept, Sir Dudley Carleton compared the Dutch system to that of a well run house. In a sense there was a simple economic rationale behind this- in a system that had an excess of employment and sucked up immigrants like a hoover, orphans could be put to use spinning twine, the poor could be turned into prosperous workers. Definitely that was part of the ideology of these programs- the deserving poor received money to return to work.

There is something else going on here though of interest and that is that welfare was tied within the Netherlands to identity. Firstly it was a privilege granted to religious establishments to cater for their own people- Jews, Lutherans, Calvinists and others had extensive facilities and lists of the deserving poor: significantly those like the Catholics perceived as dangers to the state were not included within this social compact. Secondly these programs were seen as a way to strengthen civic identity, in Middleberg in 1602 orphans were clothed in uniforms with the emblem of the city on their right sleeve. In Haarlem likewise uniforms denoted the status of being poor- but also the pride of the city in caring for its own. Regents, leading town officials, took an important interest in all the functionings of the Dutch welfare system- at Goes for example three regents presided over the town hospital. Civic identity here maintained something as important- an ideal of the Netherlands as a godly society- as Israel says welfare measures were tied as well to laws penalising drunkenness, licentiousness and rowdiness. These laws were the other side of the coin of sustaining a virtuous citizendry.

We should understand the aspirations of the governors of the Netherlands as being to create a citizen- as well as a state. The godly citizen, soberly going about his business, was a political creation- a political creation to both inculcate reason within the general population and to stimulate economic growth but also to fortify the polity. It is not advisable to draw lines between centuries- but in a sense I think we can see the Netherlands facing a real modern problem- that of immigration and republicanism, of geographical wage inequality. Whether the mixture of religion and welfare that they crafted to meet the problem was right is another matter- but it is interesting to see that it was in the Netherlands, possibly the most dynamic, cosmopolitan and tolerant society of 17th Century Europe, that you see the development of this type of welfare state- flowing out of civic and religious pride and ultimately towards the ends of the Republic itself. In a sense, the institutions of welfare in the Netherlands demonstrated that the country was, in Machiavelli's words, a republic designed for increase.

January 08, 2009

Intolerable Cruelty


The intolerable cruelty of the Coen Brother's film is on the surface easy to believe in: it is the intolerable cruelty of hypocrisy. The film is about what we might call the business of divorce: George Clooney sits on one side of that business as a lawyer who is the cleverest practitioner of the hostile break up, Catherine Zeta Jones sits on the other side as a woman committed to getting ahead in the world through her sex appeal and her callous willingness to leave husbands as soon as she can reap a reward from them. The two of them fence deliciously through the film- but over the film hovers this reality, that no-one believes what they say and furthermore no-one's actions conform to their statements. The assumption is that if you say I love you- you mean I'm going to divorce you in three months and take you for all the money I can get. In some sense Zeta Jones and her coterie define marriage as a very expensive form of prostitution- where divorce is the payoff for three months of a young woman having sex with an older man. In a sense the film is about whether that understanding of marriage is true or not- or whether it is true in every case as it is evidently (in the world of the film and perhaps outside) true in some cases. The problem is whether the film ever convincingly addresses or answers that question- I, as this review will show, am not sure that it does.

The counter argument to the cynical case against marriage is made by Clooney and Zeta Jones's relationship. They fall in love and ultimately, with some moments of tension, they marry and genuinely seem to disavow the option of divorce. That means something but the problem is that the meaning of that statement does not come with as much zest as does the cynical attack on marriage. The latter is made wittily through humour- a point impressed by the Coen brothers' contempt for their characters and its a point that everyone can enjoy. Clooney and Zeta Jones are at their most conventional when they make the conventional argument- that marriage is a commitment which requires you to stop identifying your selfish interests and start identifying your interests as a couple, as a unit- and thus they are at their most uninteresting. They look into each other's eyes, they embrace, they even profess earnestness. The problem with the couple is that they lose their sense of humour when they fall in love- contrast that to the great age of Hollywood comedies that the Coens wish us to remember and the problem is that whereas Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell could do love with humour, the Coens can't.

Ultimately the failure of the film is the fact that the bad guys are so much more charismatic than the good guys. Catherine Zeta Jones establishes her image as the sleek sexy charmer of the first two thirds of the film, George Clooney as the smooth manipulator of men and morals, both can't quite convey the enjoyment of being in love. Both of them feel existential doubts- but they relish their evil behaviour so much that their existential doubts don't really make sense. I think in part the failure here is that the Coens make love too prim or proper- too filled with vows of eternal sanctity- too legal ultimately- and less filled with the laughter and silliness that the emotion is actually about. Clooney and Zeta Jones aren't allowed to enjoy their romance- just like most couples on film are not allowed to enjoy their romances- swooning is in and smiles are out. That failure is an interesting one because it points in some sense to a wider failure in the world of cinema- a failure that I don't think the Coens alone are guilty of- which is that it is incredibly difficult to portray the happy ending where the girl and the guy (or whatever other combination of sexes you fancy) end up walking off into the sunset hand in hand. Making that interesting is not easy- and when your film rides on the contrast between that and biting, sarcastic, cynical, witty opposition to love you have a problem if you are making the romantic case.

This might seem a harsh criticism. The majority of the film does not concern the case for love- but concerns an ironic depreciation of that case. In a sense you could even argue that the ending is itself ironic- but I see no particular reason from what I saw on screen to make that point. Rather what I think we have here is a film that could make one point- that the marriage market in Los Angeles is amusingly cynical and yet profoundly stupid- and then tries to make another point about love vs commercialised and prostituted marriage and fails to make either because of a clumsy ending. I enjoyed the jokes, I found Clooney convincing and amusing and the same goes for Zeta Jones but the whole film failed. The whole film failed because the ending failed- because in the end the Coens couldn't make the film dark enough so that the ending would match the beggining, and couldn't get to the heart of romantic comedy where love is amusing. Instead what we have got is a bit of a mess- with the repartee and wit of the first three quarters and then the instant end cute. This is a four paragraph way of me saying that this film- despite its good performances and nice contrivances- doesn't make sense and for a film made by such film makers, with such intelligence, that for me is a problem.

January 07, 2009

The Role of the Bulk Trades in the History of the Netherlands

By 1477, 45% of the population of Holland lived in towns- that population was largely within the maritime towns. The Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and other towns expanded greatly in this era. Their expansion derived mainly from the bulk trades. Amsterdam largely for example traded with Danzig, Konigsberg and Riga. The Herring fisheries similarly expanded throughout the 16th Century- in 1470 there were around 250 herring busses manned by 3000 men, by 1560 there were 500 busses manned by 7000 men. By 1560 there were 1800 ships in Holland with 500 based in Amsterdam- that figure is far larger than any other European fleet- in Venice there were for example only 300 ships at the height of her mercentile power in 1450. It is estimated that 1000 Dutch vessels- some sailing twice- going into the Baltic every year whereas only about 300 German ships went the same way.

These trades influenced the structure of Dutch urban society. Obviously it led to the large populations of the Dutch cities and their survival but its consequences went far further and shaped Dutch history in the 16th Century. Firsty there were important innovations in shipping- leading up to the design of the Hoorn fluit, a large trading ship, in 1590. Dutch shipbuilders designed ships which could take huge amounts of goods, carrying them with small crews over long distances. More importantly though the type of trade influenced the type of society that developed in its wake. There were almost no important Dutch merchants before 1585 and ownership of the ships was diversified over a huge number of men. Consequenctly affluent brewers, millers, grain and timber buyers and farmers might own a section of each ship. Ships were owned sometimes by over 64 people and the profits of voyages were spread over that large amount of owners. This diversification included a diversification across the maritime regions- it was not true that one town or two as in the south dominated trade- rather many towns developed at about the same rate. Hence though the urban population in the northern Netherlands was high, very few of its cities had large populations- only Amsterdam and Utrecht had a population above 20000 in 1560 and no city had a population above 30000 at that date. Compare that to the south which specialised in luxury trades and where Antwerp, Ghent, Brussels, Bruges, Mechelen and Lille all had populations over 30,000.

This diversification is important because it led to the success of the Northern Netherlands in resisting Spanish conquest. Partly this was because there were so many sailers about- to refresh the resources of the sea beggars for example in the 1570s who opposed Spanish rule. Partly also such a large diversification of wealth meant that the ruin of one or two cities could not devastate the entire economy of Holland. Likewise such a development argued against the dominance of the Netherlands or of Holland by one city- rather it led to the development of a regionalised politics in which Holland as the largest maritime province dominated. But as opposed to Parisian France or London dominated England, the Netherlands was a much more regionalised economy and therefore its politics too were much more regional. That had vast consequences for the type of regime that emerged after the revolt and also for the type of revolt that took place: the Spanish found the revolt hard to crush because of the difficulty of subduing its centre.

January 05, 2009

William the Silent


William the Silent's leadership of the Dutch Revolution was crucial to that revolution and thus to the course of European and World history. What is more interesting though than a simple paean to the role of William is that we obtain some understanding of what his function as a leader was within that revolution. My argument, based on Professor Israel's work, is that the William of the Dutch revolution was less of a leader as we might conventionally understand it, than as a symbol and financier. He was driven by as well as driving the revolution that he created- and in certain significant ways that revolution was not what the Prince of Orange intended it to be. This is true right from the beggining- when William himself joined the revolution, to preserve his own position as the representative of the anti-Habsburg forces in the low countries through to the end when he sponsored the involvement of the Duke of Anjou in 1583 despite the Duke's unpopularity within the low countries. Strategically William's interests and the interests of his followers were different- and the interesting thing about Israel's account of the revolution is that because of the unique circumstances of the Dutch revolt, that led to William actually losing out on his interests and being forced to accept those of his followers.

This is perhaps most evident with respect to the direction of the revolution. The Revolution essentially faced two alternative paths: one was to rely on its popular centre in the north of the country and become a revolution dominated from Holland by Calvinist city elites and mobs, the other was to attempt to span the whole of the low countries and rely on the nobility. William's own interest inclined him to the latter: he had important estates in the southern Netherlands and seems not to have been too inclined to adopting a reformation policy. Toleration for Catholics was essential if you were to have a rebellion spanning the Netherlands. William's policy failed though on two important grounds- the first was that it was difficult to maintain a revolution in the south which had a different character to the revolution in the north: the mobs in northern cities that degraded Catholic churches and clergymen were not happy to see those same churches and clergyment protected in the south- even where as in Ghent there were Protestant populations. Likewise whilst to a radical Protestant, the Habsburg crown was associated with the barbaric atrocities of anti-Protestant persecution, to a nobleman the crown was associated with the pyramid of status that protected both property and ultimately society. William ultimately forced to choose- was always going to choose the successful northern rebellion over the weaker southern rebellion- but we should never forget that he wished for a compromise that would retain the vigour of the Protestant radical military strength, whilst maintaining a traditional form of society.

What is interesting about this is that we might think that this was down to William's failings as a leader- could he not have found a formula to unite these factions and led them to victory- but the evidence of the history of Holland suggests otherwise. For William was not alone in attempting to lead the Dutch rebellion and finding that he was led as much as the leader. In 1585, after the Prince of Orange was assacinated, the States concluded a treaty (the Treaty of Nonsuch) with Elizabeth of England wherein Elizabeth nominated a commander, the Earl of Leicester, to come to Holland as Governor General and command both the English forces sent in aid to the Netherlands and the Dutch forces that resisted the Spanish. Leicester found himself in a similar quandary to William- in that he too found himself up against the overmighty province of Holland and was forced, despite his efforts, to temporise with the provincial authorities and adopt in part their strategy. Leicester also attempted to ally with forces in Dutch society that were anti-Holland (in his case the smaller northern provinces) yet thanks to a variety of circumstances he failed and departed in 1587 (and died in 1588).

Leicester and William's cases might seem pretty mundane- here essentially were two leaders who learnt that in a revolution you have to pay political attention to your followers. But I think that the point is greater than that- it reminds us that the reason that early modern noblemen often rebelled against Kings was to have an effect on the rebellion that they were then leading. The point about a rebellion is that its aims are negotiated by the participants and depend on their political strength- and particularly the strength they bring to it- and sometimes not so much on their title or position within it. It is worth remembering this when thinking about rebellion in general because it is not always true that those who lead a rebellion actually control it: the case of the Dutch revolt proves that the future of a revolution can turn out to be very different from that which the leaders envisaged.

January 04, 2009

The Role of the Inquisition in the Low Countries

A couple of years ago, on the Radio 4 Program, In our Time, Alexander Murray (Emeritus Fellow in History at University College, Oxford) suggested that the Spanish inquisition was part of an agenda of state formation in Spain in the early modern period. Spain a country created in the late 15th Century imposed ideological conformity and administrative unity through the instrument of the inquisition. Murray's theory is interesting and provoking- reading Jonathan Israel's account of the Early Modern Netherlands it becomes even more interesting- because whether that is what we think that the Spanish Inquisition was doing, I think we can argue based on Israel's book that that is precisely what the Low Countries inquisition was doing, and that the response to that inquisition in the Netherlands was a response both to the clerical and to the centralising agenda of the inquisition.

The transition from a medieval to a modern state might be described as the transition from a state wherein there were multiple focii of power- around several notable families- to a unitary state. One thinks for example of the Percies or the Nevilles in the North of England who were capable in the 15th Century of functioning pretty independently. This is a broadbrush approach- and there are exceptions- but stick with it for a moment. Because wherever it was not true, it was definitely true in the Netherlands that the crown governed through notable landed families in the 15th and early 16th Centuries. Phillip II for example relied upon William the Silent as Stadtholder of numerous provinces in the north. Accross the 16th Century inside the Netherlands we see the crown (at this point the Hapsburg crown) taking an interest in the development of a professional administrative class- Antoine Perrerot de Granvelle and Viglius van Aytta are notable examples of these men- who were educated by the humanists and formed an alternative cadre for appointment.

The crown though had to see inside each nobleman's provinces. We know that in the 1550s and 1560s one of the focii for conflict between the centre and the periphery in the Netherlands was religion. Several noblemen permitted religious heresy to take place on their own lands. Phillippe de Montmorency, Count of Horn, for example within the county of Horn allowed Protestants to proslytise- as did the noble leaders in communities in Gederland such as Culemborg, Broculo-Lichtenvoorde and Batenberg. Developing the powers of the inquisition would not merely enforce religious conformity but undermine the power of the nobility to interfere in their own regions and make their own choices about religion. Consequently when a more efficient structure of bishoprics was imposed- with Granvelle himself going to one bishopric- and when the inquisition was strengthened, the nobility protested. At 's-Hertogenbosch for example the local clergy (the Abbots of Meierij) and the local nobility (the States of Brabant) objected to the installation of Bishop Sonnius. But more was to follow: in 1565 Hendrik van Brederode and Floris of Culemborg set up the league of compromise which was a movement of crypto-Protestant and Protestant noblemen. In April 1566 they were able to present a petition to the regent of the Netherlands- Margerate of Parma- with a petition signed by 200 noblemen advocating the dismantlement of the inquisition.

On the one hand we should see that petition and the events I have discussed here as religious events- a Protestant faction responding to a Catholic crackdown. But also there is another part of the story- whether in the Holy Roman Empire (with Frederick the Wise), in England, Scotland, France or Spain, the reformation and counter reformation represented efforts by rulers to centralise their realms. The crown through these movements was claiming great powers, powers to inspect and verify the faith of its servants at great distances. The reaction to those claims wherever it came from was religious- but it also concerned the extent of those powers. Many within the nobility did not see that centralisation as a particularly 'good' thing- for them it represented a diminishing of their sphere of power and could be a Trojan horse for other royal claims. It is worth remembering that when the Dutch nobility objected to Phillip's inquisition what they were doing was objecting to a counter-reformation attack on Protestantism- but they were also seeking to defend their own privileges and powers against royal aggrandisment.

The dual face of the reformation cannot be ignored: we have to pay attention both to the fact that the reformation was a religious movement and that it turned confessionalisation into royal policy- the first had consequences but so did the latter and out of the fires of the reformation, the modern conception of the state evolved. Whereas where as with Phillip in the Netherlands or the Elizabeth in England, that process of state formation based on the creation of religious uniformity worked- in the sense that resistance was dealt with with ease- in the Low Countries, the process failed and consequently the Northern Netherlands split away forming the United Provinces. State formation- along with religious enthusiasm- is at the heart of the story of the Low Countries in the 16th Century.