The historical record of the Netherlands 1795-1840

Compiled by H.T. Colenbrander

This publication, which contains close to 15,000 pages, set out to document the political history of the Netherlands from the turbulent period of transition at the end of the Dutch Republic to the abdication of King William I. The published documents, which were selected by H.T. Colenbrander according to their importance for the ‘general history of the fatherland’, were in his view the building blocks for the historiography of this period.

The study encompassed the archives of ministerial departments and the collections of private individuals. During visits to foreign archives (in Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Russia, and the Scandinavian countries) the focus was primarily on diplomatic papers. Colenbrander was especially interested in the events and processes that went on behind the scenes: after all, it was the bricks and mortar, not the final façade, that deserved to be examined.

The series had a massive influence on historiography for the period 1789-1840 and is still used today. However, over the course of time it has also come in for a great deal of criticism. The selection from the archive material was highly subjective. Important collections, such as the State Secretariat of King William I and the Royal Archives were not included in the study. The documents were sometimes transcribed without due care and attention, while at the same time references to archives are usually so brief that it is often impossible to trace the documents. Yet despite all this, the Gedenkstukken remain an invaluable source of material for almost every study into the period 1789-1840. The documents are in Dutch, French, German and English; indexes have been compiled of individuals, related issues and correspondents.