Universiteit Leiden

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PhD Defence

Democratie in kinderschoenen

Wednesday 21 November 2018
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden


In 1797 and 1798 the first steps were taken in the Netherlands towards the development of a democratic system. In 1796-1797 a written Constitution was drafted for the Batavian Republic, as the Netherlands was called at the time. This Constitution was in 1797 submitted in a national referendum for a vote of the people, but it was rejected. A new draft was written and again submitted the following year. This time the Constitution was adopted. Very little is known about these referenda. Extensive archival research has been necessary in order to understand how these  steps in democracy were taken. It has been possible to produce a dataset of results for 948 cities, villages and rural districts. Based on the voting results, the public support for a democratic constitution has been analyzed after a description of the voting system. The voting results are examined along two cleavages structures. First, major distinctions existed between cities and rural districts and secondly between Catholics and Protestants.  As a partial explanation the religious preferences are important to understand the turnout by the two referenda. Above all, the results of the two referenda show a deeply divided society of religious minorities.


  • Prof.dr. J.J.M. van Holsteyn
  • Prof.dr. J.TH.J. van den Berg
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