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Lilian Nijhuis MA

PhD candidate


Area(s) of interest: Dutch History, Early Modern History, Identity, War & Conflict

Cohort/Start PhD: 2017-2018

Coping with Crisis in the Dutch Republic, 1570-1700
Radboud University Nijmegen

Project: Dealing with Disasters in the Netherlands. The Shaping of Local and National Identities, 1421-1890
Promotor(es): Prof. dr. Lotte Jensen
Aanstelling: vanaf februari 2018

The late sixteenth and the seventeenth century witness many catastrophes, including floods and fires. In this period, disaster discourses become increasingly marked by political topics and vocabulary due to the Eighty Years’ War, the subsequent wars against the English, and the long-lasting war against the French (from 1672 on). Disaster discourses are intrinsically connected with the struggle against foreign enemies and the fight for independence.
In this research a number of disasters will be selected, from throughout the period, including at least the heavy storms of 1573 and 1574, the severe winter (1608), the storm along the Dutch coast (1653), the flood in Coevorden (where at least 1200 German soldiers died, 1673), All Saints’ Day Flood (1675), and the St Martin’s Flood in Groningen (1686). The project will analyse the disaster discourses in close connection with the political events of these days. The year 1672 is often characterised as a year of disasters, because of the foreign invasion of English, French and German troops, and the internal political changes in the Republic (Reinders 2010); previous research suggests that disaster discourses were affected by these events (Sundberg 2015), but an overarching analysis of the popular reactions to natural disasters in this period has not yet been undertaken.
This subproject will pay attention to the interplay between local identities and the way a ‘national narrative’ is being constructed at the same time. In what ways were these calamities configured as disasters that connected communities across the Republic and called for empathy and identification with the afflicted? Special attention will be paid to songs and sermons, in which metaphors were used which connected the fight against the foreign enemy and the fight against natural forces.