Simon Groenveld is one of the most productive scholars of early modern Dutch history. This productivity was by no means affected by his retirement as professor of history from the University of Leiden in 2003. By contrast, since then a long list of articles, books, and supervised theses has appeared showing his continuing fascination by, and deep knowledge of, the period. The current volume, initiated by many of his former PhD students, is a collection of essays on various aspects of the Eighty Years’ War.
The book contains twelve chapters presented in a roughly chronological order, and preceded by a short introduction on the conflict, the terminology, and the periodization. Rather than revisiting the 2008 book on the Eighty Years’ War which Groenveld wrote with several colleagues, most of the essays collected here have appeared earlier in French, German, or English collections and journals that are difficult to access for a broad audience. These have been translated into Dutch, and, in some cases, updated and expanded. Some, such as the extensive biographical chapter on Philip de Montmorency, Count of Horn, and the chapter on the Siege of Leiden, were published in Dutch in lesser known outlets.
Some chapters contain substantial new work. Chapter 5, for example, has not been published before. This essay, which investigates Anglo-Dutch relations in the 1580s, exemplifies Groenveld’s interest and expertise in Dutch international relations. Based on a 2004 lecture, the chapter also illustrates the limitations of some of the later essays in this book. Opening with a description of Sir Philip Sidney’s death near Zutphen in 1586, it develops into a broad, highly knowledgeable, but largely descriptive overview of England’s political and military involvement the Dutch Revolt, focused on high politics, and based exclusively on (older) secondary literature: Collinson, Van Dorsten, Wilson, and Worden. Hugh Dunthorne’s Britain and the Dutch Revolt (2013) is not referenced. This is Groenveld in the professorial mode, offering an authoritative introduction to the subject, but nothing new, and without any apparent interest in the kind of questions recent scholarship has asked.
Chapter 8, by contrast, is an important and timely examination of the Dutch involvement in the Julich-Cleves succession conflict, which seriously expands on a much shorter German version published in 2011. Here too, the focus is on high politics, and the narrative mode explanatory rather than analytical. But unlike Chapter 5 this chapter deals with an issue that has been severely neglected by Dutch historians, the conflict in the borderlands of the Low Countries that nearly destroyed the Truce with Spain. It also draws on a wider range of scholarship, and extensive research in the Resolutions of the States General, which elevates it to quite a different level than some of the reworked lectures.
As a collection of essays, Facetten van de tachtigjarige oorlog is rather imbalanced, and of limited use to professional historians and advanced students. Its main value is as a monument to Simon Groenveld’s prolific career, and as a sample of his wide-ranging expertise. It is more than fitting, therefore, that the volume ends with a bibliography of his work. It contains 238 items published between 1964 and 2018.