transform a most impressive thesis into a more widely marketable book.
BRIAN E. STRAYER
CHRISTINE KOOI. Calvinists and Catholics during Holland’s Golden Age: Heretics and Idolaters. New York:
Cambridge University Press. 2012. Pp. ix, 246. $99.00.
That there was a surprising degree of practical toleration of different creeds and a lack of open mutual hostility or violence among Protestants and Catholics, as well as other groups, within the Dutch Republic did not escape the notice of seventeenth-century contemporaries. It has been an issue of consideration and research ever since. Willem Frijhof, Jonathan Israel, and
Henk van Nierop have all written extensively on this issue, from various points of view. Nierop’s Treason in the Northern Quarter: War, Terror, and the Rule of Law in the Dutch Revolt (2009) elucidates in minute detail the local workings of social relations. Judith Pollman has contributed further research on why Protestants and Catholics were not as antagonistic toward each other in the Dutch Republic as they were, for example, in neighboring France (Catholic Identity and the Revolt of the Netherlands, 1520–1635 ). Why, given this broad background of knowledge on the issue, do we need yet another study on this subject?
Christine Kooi has added an in-depth account of the everyday relations of Calvinists and Catholics in six major cities in Holland. She correctly reminds us that there was little theological basis for neighborly relations among Calvinists and Catholics, though we know that
Lutherans could be hostile to both Calvinists and Catholics on doctrinal grounds. Kooi also points out that the influx of Calvinist refugees during the 1570s and 1580s created the potential for conflict among settled populations, though we also know that, for example, the Leiden town magistracy made it clear that it would not take the Calvinist refugees’ views of Catholics as its point of departure for the administration of the town. Kooi places her study in the context of a Dutch “confederate” regime (p. 9) of town magistracies that needed to pay attention to local affairs and to manage religious pluralism. Strictly speaking, it is problematic to call the
Dutch Republic a confederacy, and such an interpretation is not borne out by the suppression of Arminianism in 1618 and the execution of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt. But the importance of town magistracies’ desire to keep local relations tranquil is surely borne out by Kooi’s research. Her first chapter establishes the context of the nature of the Protestant church and its relation to the broader population, and chapter two then looks at “Priests and Preachers.” While her claim that “no state authority forc[ed] religious conformity of one type or another” (p. 45) may overstate the situation, she can show the extent to which relations indeed remained “fluid.” Chapter three, “Persecution and Toleration,” correctly points out that “Dutch religious toleration” was “a process rather than a condition” (p. 91).
This finding is emphasized in chapter four, “Converts and Apostates,” as well as in the last chapter, “Kith and
In her conclusion, Kooi claims that “the full spectrum of confessional coexistence in Holland” (pp. 215–216) was made possible because “Catholic and Calvinist
Hollanders interacted with each other in a variety of arenas—as churches, communities and individuals,” and because Holland was “diverse” (p. 220). While this is certainly true, and notwithstanding the detail with which this study has underlined this fact, what does this truism actually explain? Did Catholics and Calvinists not interact as individuals and as members of churches and communities in France or Ireland? Did that prevent the dramatic violence of the French religious wars at the local level or the ambivalent relationships of
Catholics and Calvinists in Ireland before, during, and after the 1641 revolt? Do the plurality of arenas and the objective and important diversity of early modern societies undermine the fact that most seventeenth-century contemporaries concluded from the English, Irish, and French experiences that religious plurality was generally not practicable, at least once it was put under stress? Arguably, the rhetoric of the importance of local relations and their own dynamics and of taking local and regional diversity seriously could just as well be applied to an account of the 1641 slaughter of Protestants by Catholics during the Irish rebellion, or any account of local-level violence during the French religious wars.
No matter how much Kooi’s study might be praised for adding detailed local color to coexistence, it suffers from her decision to present social and cultural relations on the local level and their “pragmatics of diversity” as somehow independent from or opposed to the findings of “intellectual history” and “abstract ideas” (p. 3). In contrast, a good deal of modern research is concerned precisely with the interaction of intellectual changes, grand political decision-making, and pamphlet propaganda at the local and intermediate levels.
Kooi’s worthy study thus adds more flesh to an already well-nourished body of descriptions and analyses of the local social and cultural dynamics that underlay and fed the celebrated practical toleration among and between different confessions in the Dutch Republic. Ultimately, however, Kooi explains less and is less innovative than she claims.
ROBERT VON FRIEDEBURG
Erasmus University Rotterdam
MONICA AZZOLINI. The Duke and the Stars: Astrology and
Politics in Renaissance Milan. (I Tatti Studies in Italian
Renaissance History.) Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 2013. Pp. xiii, 370. $49.95.
What would the history of a Renaissance state look like if the modern researcher were to take account of astrology in a way proportional to its real significance for early modern Europeans? Monica Azzolini demonstrates that she is well-qualified for such an endeavor already in the first chapter of this book, where her care1004 Reviews of Books