In Groningen economic prosperity and the government both changed significantly. King Phillip II of Spain ruled Holland in the late 16th century. The cities, such as Groningen, ruled their separate city-states and were resentful of Spain (Hooker 81). In 1567, there was a growing rebellion from the nobility against the Spanish monarchy. The Spanish monarchy sent Alva, Count of Bossu, to be the new stadholder to replace William of Orange. Alva executed 18,000 people within the first three months (Hooker 84). William of Orange became a leader of the revolution against Spain. After nine years of war, Spain lost control of the Netherlands in 1576. The Catholic Church, imposed by the Spanish, was replaced by Calvinism, which exercised a new monopoly on religion (Hooker 86). John Calvin, a French born reformist, had a profound effect on Dutch history. He promoted the virtues of thrift, industry, sobriety, and responsibility. He also believed that the state was subordinate to the church (Hooker 81). Although Spain lost control, the fighting continued through 1609. There was a break for a dozen years and then war continued again from 1621-1648. This time period became known as the 80-years War (Hooker 89). During the 80-years War, the United Provinces in the north became the richest nation in Europe. In 1643, the Dutch had 3,400 merchant ships. Because of the their wealth, the arts and sciences flourished. Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) is the best known from this time period (Hooker 93).

Prosperity Declines.

      As the 80-years War ended, the unity ended, and there were disagreements. The power began to decline in 1648 (Hooker 97). William of Orange-Nassau-Dietz (1711-1751) became the stadholder of Groningen in 1722 (Hooker 99). His son, became the leader in 1766. In 1776, the English declared war on the United States. England requested the Netherlands to help. They refused. As a consequence, a war started between England and the Netherlands too. It lasted from 1780 to 1784 (Hooker 100).

French Occupation.

      France occupied the Netherlands in 1803 (de Vries 168) and it was annexed in 1810. The Dutch rebelled in 1813 and cleared the Netherlands of the French Army (Hooker 121). In 1814, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands united to form one country. There were religious (Catholicism in Belgium and Calvinism in the Netherlands) and economic differences. When Belgium declared its independence in 1831, war erupted again which lasted until 1839 (Hooker 122). In 1848, peasants and the middle class were revolting against monarchies in many European countries. At this time, William II, the monarch, started constitutional reform and gave more power to the middle class (Hooker 124).

Groningen Was a City-State.

      The provinces in the Netherlands were governed as city-states. The City of Groningen controlled and ruled the surrounding area more than the capital cities of other provinces. It suppressed the market rights of smaller towns. It required that market produce be shipped to Groningen rather than sold in a smaller town. It forbid merchants from working in rural areas of the province. In most other provinces, farmers were free to sell their produce where they wanted (de Vries 49).

      The first census in Groningen was held in 1795. There were 115,000 people with 87,000 in rural communities (de Vries 105).

      Six years after our ancestors emigrated from the Netherlands, in 1887, an amendment was passed that allowed about 29% of the adult male population to vote. By 1916, only 70% of adult men could vote. All men and women could vote by 1922 (Hooker 129).

Windmills and Canals.

      When we think of the Netherlands, we often think of windmills draining a flooded land crisscrossed by canals. In Groningen, the early inhabitants built mounds, called weiren, rising as high as 38 feet above the land to protect themselves from flooding. They started to build dikes in the 11th century and a substantial number were built by the 13th century. The first windmills for drainage were built in the early 15th century. They were built to reduce summer and spring flooding only. Winter flooding was accepted as normal (de Vries 29-30).

Canals and Transportation.

      The canals weren�t just built for drainage. They were built for transportation too. One industry in Groningen was the peat industry. Workers dug peat from bogs that was used as a fuel. Many of the canals were dug to transport peat to market (de Vries 202-204). For transportation, a straight canal with a tow path was built. These were called �trekvaarts�. These were used to transport people too. These were used extensively in Groningen. They went to every part of the province. In the late 19th century, a historian wrote, �if there is one thing which the province, and above all the city, can boast of it is her canals. The rise and prosperity of the city and province must be ascribed even into our day to the digging of the waterways through which both agriculture (by the promotion of improvements and drainage) and trade and shipping (through the opening of new routes) were remarkably encouraged.� A horse pulling a boat could carry many more people or supplies than one pulling a carriage (de Vries 207).


      In England, the nobility and the Church owned most of the land and worked together to maintain power. In Groningen, there wasn�t much nobility, the nobles distrusted the Church, and the Church didn�t own much land. Churches were supported by ministers charging fees for marriages and other official services (de Vries 41-42).

      In Groningen, the few �nobles� were called �hoofdelingen�. They were farm families who had acquired moderately more land, lived on the proceeds of rents from their lands, and served in government or military offices. Most of these families owned much less than 200 hectares. It was very unusual for a nobleman in the northern provinces to own more than a few hundred hectares. To hold a judicial office in Groningen, a hoofdelingen had to own 30 grazen, about 15 hectares (de Vries 37-38). Lacking nobility, the City of Groningen became very powerful. By 1650, there was only one hoofdelingen family in Groningen province (de Vries 40).


      In the late 16th century, farmers experimented with new architectural styles that brought the barn, hay storage, milk room, and living quarters into one building. In Groningen, this was called a �schuur (de Vries 200-201)�. As we traveled in Groningen in 2001, we saw farmhouses that still used this style of home.


      Groningen was a very poor province when our ancestors lived there in the 19th century (Hooker 21). However, rural Dutch peasants like our ancestors had more freedom and wealth than peasants in England. A typical peasant in the Province of Holland had between two to three cows. They also often owned their own land (de Vries 49-53, 71).

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