The Politics of Memory

The Writing of Partition in the Seventeenth-Century Low Countries


The Eighty Years’ War and the establishment of two states in the Low Countries inaugurated the publication of numerous texts to support a distinct Northern and Southern identity. This study analyses urban and regional chorographies written both in the North and in the South in the seventeenth century. It examines different strategies that chorographers developed to make sense of the recent and more remote past. It also looks at the development of different historiographical traditions in the Protestant North and the Catholic South and thus contributes to the current research interest in the history of historiography, cultures of memory and identity formation.
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Biographical Note

Raingard Esser, Ph.D. (1994) in Medieval and Modern History, University of Cologne, is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Groningen. She has published extensively on early modern urban and regional identity including Frontiers, Regions and Identities in Europe (Pisa University Press, 2009).

Review Quotes

"The book [...] represents a landmark in the study of historiography in the Low Countries. [....] The Politics of Memory does convince [...] with its encyclopaedic knowledge and its magisterial handling of a vast array of sources. [...] The book is particularly strong in presenting its many sources within their context, thus indirectly offering the bonus of a panorama of political, economic, and social developments in the early-modern Low Countries." – Pit Péporte, in: Hémecht 66/1 (2014), 120-122
"A brief summary cannot begin to do justice to the extent and subtlety of Esser’s analysis and insights. So close a reading of the Dutch chorographers of the seventeenth century, conducted with full attention to the historical context and building upon recent studies of individual chorographers and their work is necessarily of critical importance and anyone studying Dutch history, historiography, civic identity, and the shaping of group memory will find reading this book an extremely stimulating and rewarding exercise." – Joseph M. McCarthy, Suffolk University, in: Seventeenth-Century News 71/1-2 (Spring-Summer 2013), pp. 25-27
"[...] Esser’s work is a great accomplishment, since she manages to convince her readers of the significance in studying both the genre of the chorography and its content. [...] [H]er sharp analysis of the processes of published urban and regional histories definitely make The Politics of Memory a must-read for scholars working on civic history of the Low Countries." – Marianne Eekhout, Leiden University, in: Renaissance Quarterly 65/4 (Winter 2012), pp. 1310-1311 [DOI: 10.1086/669437]

Table of contents

Introduction. Partition - Continuity and Change: Urban and Regional Cultures of Memory in the Low Countries in the Seventeenth Century

1 The Jewel in the Crown: Amsterdam and her Historians
2 Tot Lof van Haarlem: Memories in Competition
3 Nijmegen – City of the Batavians

4 Antverpiae Antiquitatum
5 Faded Glory: Leuven
6 Crusader Kings and Warrior Saints: Geraardsbergen

7I Centre and Peripheries: Holland, Zeeland, Gelderland, Drenthe and Overijssel and Flanders
8I On the Border: Brabantia Sacra or Der Staten Brabant



All those interested in the history of historiography, the history of identity formation, memory studies, as well as the history of the early modern Low Countries.


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