Benchmarking the Past

B. De Ridder, ‘Benchmarking the Past: Politico-Legal Connotations of Tradition, Custom and Common Practice in the Diplomacy of the Eighty Years War’, in: Dutch Crossing: Journal of Low Countries Studies, published online (2016).


In the historiography of the Dutch Revolt and the Eighty Years War, scholars have focused principally on the growing differences between the Habsburg Netherlands and the Dutch Republic. In order to explain the eventual separation of the ‘two’ Netherlands, it has been established that the political culture of both countries increasingly grew apart and so prevented reunification. Still, this did not mean that the diplomatic vocabulary of these states no longer contained any similarities. Throughout the Eighty Years War both governments relied on analogous notions of tradition, custom and common practice to legitimize their point of view. Such notions, together with their negative counterpart of innovation, were enshrined in a juridical language that also offered a point of convergence. In turn, these shared claims to history provided a common repertoire that diplomats from both sides deployed in their arguments. As such, benchmarking the past offered a communal framework from which to start and maintain conversation between the separated Netherlands.

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