Petitions and politics in the Netherlands

Duration: 1 October 2020 – 31 December 2023
Subsidy provider: Fonds Staatsman Thorbecke KNAW
Subsidy size: 200,000 euro
Remarkable: The project will result in the first Dutch-language monograph on the history of petitions.
Valorisation: Op veler verzoek, een boek voor een breed publiek, zal verschijnen en er komt een symposium over de politieke restauratie in Nederland. Beiden geven een belangrijke impuls aan de hedendaagse discussie over politieke participatie.

This project is about the period between 1780 and 1860. This was a time of democratisation, but not democracy by our contemporary standards. However, politics in this era was more inclusive than is usually thought, in the sense that more people participated in the political process. When we take petitioning practice seriously, we see more continuity than the many regime changes and contemporary rhetoric of reform, restoration and reform again suggest. This forces us to significantly adjust the familiar picture of this epoch.

In the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, in the revolutionary Batavian Republic, in Napoleonic Netherlands and in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, authorities at all levels of government spent a significant part of their time reading, discussing and responding to petitions. For residents of the Netherlands, with and without the right to vote, the opportunity to submit petitions was the most important form of political participation well into the nineteenth century.

Historians have largely ignored this aspect of political history until now. While major petition campaigns sometimes pass by in historical studies, the importance of petitioning as a political phenomenon has hardly been considered. Decision-making has mostly been studied at the level of power, but when a political assembly or an individual ruler took a decision, it was often preceded by a whole process of drafting and submitting petitions. In this book project, petition practice is given a place in Dutch political history.