Henk van Nierop

The Betrayal of the Northern Quarter

Oorlog, terreur en recht in de Nederlandse Opstand

War, terror and justice in the Dutch Revolt

At the time, the Dutch Revolt must have been experienced as an incoherent series of battles, sieges, skirmishes, ambushes and random incidents. Only later were these melded into a rational historical account under the heading the Eighty Years War (1568-1648), a national war of independence from Spanish rule. A coherent epic was created, full of drama, heroism, absolute villains and saintly heroes. After the Second World War however, this Eighty Years War again came to be seen as a revolt, inextricably linked to social and economic developments, and to problems connected with the Reformation and the invention of the nation state.

Historian Henk van Nierop looks back to the chaotic early years of the revolt to study events from the perspective of ordinary people in the Low Countries. In most cases the revolt was not something they consciously chose to join. It was a war that came to them, with all its suffering and misery.

The backdrop to Van Nierop’s absorbing account is the Dutch Northern Quarter, the area north of the IJ that had been an impregnable fortress since 1572, held by rebels who had revolted in the name of William of Orange. In the spring of 1575 a Spanish force gathered under the leadership of Hierges, Stadholder to Spain’s Philip II, determined to take back the Northern Quarter.

Less than two weeks later the Spanish retreated without having been fully deployed in battle. This withdrawal has been attributed to the firm action taken by Diederik Sonoy, William of Orange’s Governor of the Northern Quarter. Alarmed by rumours of imminent betrayal, he ordered the arrest and interrogation of all foreigners. Blame fell on a number of Catholic citizens, among them Jan Jeroenszoon, a lawyer from the city of Hoorn. The municipal authorities in Hoorn, the friends of Jan Jeroenszoon, and William of Orange himself refused to be caught up in this mass hysteria and eventually succeeded in halting the torture of suspects. After the Pacification of Ghent (1576) the High Court of Holland acquitted Jan Jeroenszoon and summoned Sonoy and his entire investigative commission to appear before it.

Drawing on copious new source material, Van Nierop dissects the myths of the period in this beautifully composed book, painting a detailed picture of the sixteenth-century context: laws and privileges, reformation and unrest, outsiders and burghers, Sea Beggars and collaborators, warlords and a newly emerging government.

An impressive new study of the true nature of the Dutch Revolt and the horror that civil war and revolution brings to ‘ordinary people’.

Geoffrey Parker, author of <em>The Thirty Years’ War</em> and <em>The Grand Strategy of Philip II</em>

A disconcerting book. In The Betrayal of the Northern Quarter, Henk van Nierop gives a penetrating account of the misery inhabitants of this far corner of Holland were forced to undergo.

Vrij Nederland

Henk van Nierop

Henk van Nierop is Professor of Modern History at the University of Amsterdam and director of the university’s Amsterdam Centre for the Study of the Golden Century. He regularly publishes work on aspects of Dutch sixteenth- and seventeenth-century history. He is one of the authors of the…

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Het verraad van het Noorderkwartier. Oorlog, terreur en recht in de Nederlandse Opstand (1999). Non-fiction, 344 pages.
Words: 122,000
Copies sold: 7,000

with notes and references



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