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Dutch revolt, siege of Leiden, memory studies, environmental history, military history


This article analyzes the process of commemoration relating to the relief of Leiden. The siege and subsequent rescue of the city were pivotal moments in early years of the Dutch Revolt. As the Prince of Orange and the rebel forces could not save the city with traditional military maneuvers,they employed military inundations, or the intentional flooding of land,for tactical purposes.Over the course of two months the rebels flooded roughly half of southern Holland through dike breaches and the opening of sluices. This man-­‐made flood only carried the rebels so far, and it took a rain storm and a change in the direction of the wind to finally allow them to save the city. This article focuses on a print produced shortly after the city was saved on October 3,1574. The image highlights the traditional narrative of how the siege was portrayed and commemorated in sixteenth century Holland, focusing on the famine and distress of the city while also showcasing how it was saved through what the rebels interpreted as divine intervention.As a point of departure, this article explores how the military inundations were remembered and memorialized in the image and more broadly in other contemporary accounts.The print, and many other commemorations, interpreted these natural changes in the weather as a sign of God’s blessing.Framing the relief of Leiden as providential served a number of important functions for contemporaries.Most importantly,it allowed the rebels to avoid addressing issues of reparations and compensation resulting from the military inundations.This paper argues that the providential interpretation of the rescue of Leiden helped to hide the uncomfortable truth that the conquest of nature and the domination of humans are intimately connected.


Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences (FHASS)


Canadian Journal of Netherlandic Studies





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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
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Original Publication Citation

Tiegs, R. (2014). Hidden beneath the waves: Remembering and forgetting after the relief of Leiden. Canadian Journal of Netherlandic Studies, 35 (2) (2014), 1-27. Retrieved from


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