Nothing but your walls: the Dutch states-general and the fortified town of Wesel (1629)
Cauwer, Peter De
Fortification -- Germany -- History Germany -- History, Military Οχυρώσεις -- Γερμανία -- Ιστορία Γερμανία -- Ιστορία, Στρατιωτική
In August 1629, Dutch troops occupied the Spanish held town of Wesel by surprise. In the weeks following this event, the States-General and the local authorities negotiated their future positions towards each other. This paper examines how this process took shape during these crucial weeks. It looks at the interests of the Dutch government and the strategic issues at stake. What was the strategic value of the town and why was it so important for the States-General to maintain a garrison there? How did they try to cut down the heavy burden that went along with it, and how did they see the role of the local authorities? It was clear that the new masters needed the cooperation of the population, and this brings up the second main focus of this paper, the town of Wesel itself. Did the local council go along with the views of the States-General, and how did they regard the presence of the Dutch troops and the demands they made. This paper tries to make clear how the States-General tried to engage the town in their larger war effort, and how the local authorities responded to this attempts. Were they able to press through their viewpoints, or was there no room for manoeuvring? In the end, who gained from the negotiations?Without any doubt the States-General scored a remarkable success from a strategic and propagandistic point of view. The capture of Wesel enhanced their prestige across Europe and marked the beginning of the end of Spanish hegemony on the Lower Rhine. They managed to secure the stronghold during the first crucial weeks, but it seems unlikely that they were able to uphold their image of liberators of the Protestant town from Catholic oppression. They were more or less forced to impose new and sometimes heavy burdens on the townsfolk, while misbehaviour of Dutch soldiers did not win them much sympathy. The local authorities, for their part, gave proof of a good diplomatic judgement of the new situation and succeeded in prizing off some concessions, but they somehow failed in translating them into tangible results.
Paper presented at Seventh International Conference on Urban History: European City in Comparative Perspective, Panteion University, Athens - Piraeus, Greece, 27-30 October 2004, Session: Wars, Bastions, and Towns: The Impact of Fortifications upon the Civic Community in the Early Modern Europe