Disputation by Decree

The Public Disputations between Reformed Ministers and D.V. Coornhert as Instruments of Religious Policy during the Dutch Revolt (1577-1583)


Prevailing scholarly analysis of the public disputations between D.V. Coornhert (1522-1590) and Dutch Reformed ministers is firmly rooted in a principled view of early modern tolerance. This study proposes a new point of departure, which involves breaking away from a Coornhert-centred reading of the debates in Leiden and the Hague, while focusing on the formal status of these disputations instead. Government support of the Reformed Church proved the backbone of these illuminating ‘disputations by decree’. The public legitimization of the Reformed Church – a goal with both political and theological significance – was at stake. As a micro-history of two very unique occasions in Dutch history, this study sheds new light on the complex development of political and religious argument in the early phase of the Dutch Revolt.
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Biographical Note

Marianne Roobol, Ph.D. (2005) in History, University of Amsterdam, studied History at the University of Leiden.

Review Quotes

“impressive […] I hope that Roobol’s study will not only cause a revolution in Coornhert-research, but will also stimulate a re-evaluation of other supposed forerunners of liberal theology in their historical context.”
Kees de Wildt, VU University Amsterdam. In: Church History and Religious Culture, Vol. 92, Nos. 2-3 (2012), pp. 390-394.

Table of contents


Disputation by decree. An introduction

1. Wartime polemics. On the public church
Letters and pamphlets
Troubled times
A public church

2. Room for debate. A question of tolerance?
The cult of Coornhert
The problem of liberty
Reformation and disputation

3. The Coornhert affair (I). From correspondence to disputation
Thomas Tilius
Pestilens ille homo
Paper controversy
Debate in Delft
Leiden academy and beyond

4. Pro et contra. The Leiden disputation (1578)
Along the Rapenburg
Settling accounts

5. The Coornhert affair (II). From pamphlet to disputation
Adrianus Saravia
Narrow margins
Resolution, remonstrance and request
Lobbying a reluctant States

6. Bridging the divide. The disputation in the Hague (1583)
The Binnenhof
An open ending

In conclusion. Authority and order



All those interested in the intellectual history of the Dutch Revolt and the history of the Reformation.

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