Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Monarchy in Turmoil. Rulers, Courts and Politics in The Netherlands and Germany, C.1780 – C.1820

How did rulers in the Netherlands and in adjacent smaller German territories adapt their regimes to ongoing change in legitimacy and decision-making during the transition period 1780-1820?

2017 - 2021
Jeroen Duindam

Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands.
Project Website: Monarchie in beroering.

Between c.1780 and c.1820, revolutions and wars transformed the political geography of Europe. By the end of this turbulent phase, a new power balance had taken shape. The majority of smaller players was now side-lined, whereas others achieved great power status. At the same time, notions of political power and the role of the monarch were upturned. Princes were forced to adapt their rule to these transitions; yet their efforts have never been studied in detail. Our project traces princely adaptations and innovations in the Low Countries and adjacent German territories, where a sequence of traditional, Napoleonic and restoration rulers faced particularly far-reaching changes in terms of territory, government, sovereignty and legitimacy.

Traditionally, the princely court had been the focal point of representation and government. Courts gradually lost this position in the nineteenth century, but it remains unclear to what extent this process occurred during the transition period. We examine this question in two domains: court styles and decision-making. Princes in these challenging times were forced to choose between different styles of court life, but needed to carefully consider the impact of their choices on elites and the population. In addition, they were keen to use the strengthened and rationalized state apparatus introduced by the revolution, although this forced them to reconsider their personal role and the role of their household in decision-making.

Research Team, Organization and Embedding of the Programme

The research team comprises three senior researchers, two PhD candidates, and an advisory board. The main applicant, prof. Duindam, is a leading authority on the early modern court and an experienced comparative historian. The co-applicant, prof. Nijenhuis, adds expertise on representation and decision-making in early modern political regimes and has a specific knowledge of sources related to decision-making practice. The senior researcher, dr Gabriëls, who acts as postdoc, combines extensive research experience on the Dutch Stadtholderate in the late eighteenth century with detailed knowledge of Napoleonic France and its sister regimes. He will be able to effectively support the two PhD candidates. The research team has invited leading specialists on monarchy and politics in the early modern age as well as in the nineteenth century to join the advisory board.

Related research projects

This project stems from ongoing co-operation between researchers at the Leiden Institute for History and the Huygens ING in The Hague. Both institutions have particularly strong profiles in political history. Huygens ING coordinates the Research School for Political History. The Leiden Institute, in turn, hosts a number of researchers on state formation and decision-making, and forms part of an interdisciplinary multi-faculty research group on ‘political legitimacy: institutions and identities’, which includes other relevant projects.

Our project complements and broadens the NWO Free Competition Humanities project (started in 2015) on ‘The persistence of civic identities in the Netherlands, 1747-1848’ led by prof. Te Velde and prof. Pollmann. Our researchers will form part of both communities and training programmes. Relevant institutions and specialists in Germany will be included in this initiative, including the (Hessian) Universities of Kassel, Marburg and Gießen.

This project also aims to collaborate with the NWO-funded research Investment behaviour, political change and economic growth in the Netherlands, 1780-1920supervised by prof. Joost Jonker and prof. Oscar Gelderblom at Utrecht University

Connection with other research

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