'Remembering Holland is actually more about Gelderland'

Het verhaal van Gelderland (The Story of Gelderland), edited by Dolly Verhoeven, will be published on 10 November. The authors, including several Radboud researchers, describe the history of Gelderland in four sections, from a cultural, economic, political and social perspective. 'Few Gelderlanders feel a real Gelderland identity, even though there is plenty that connects us '

Dolly Verhoeven noticed that until now, Gelderland was one of the few provinces without a history clearly its own. "Few Gelderlanders feel a real Gelderland identity in the way that Brabanders feel a real Brabant identity. People here are more likely to feel an Achterhoek, Nijmegen or Veluwe identity - even though there is plenty that connects us." 

Verhoeven is Distinguished Professor of Gelderland History at Radboud University and one of the initiators of the four-part Het verhaal van Gelderland that describes the course of Gelderland history. "In this project, we wanted to research which elements make this history special or specific." 

Gelderland as buffer zone 

Present-day Gelderland first became a cohesive territory in the Middle Ages - roughly a thousand years ago . But even before that, it's possible to ascertain a central thread running through the history of the areas that would later form the province. For example, Gelderland regularly acted as a buffer zone between the Netherlands and the rest of the world.

A detailed drawing (around 1690) 'Rheder-veer aan de IJssel' opposite 'de Valeweerd'. With view on the 'Rheder Enk', the 'Rheder bos', Rheden and the 'Wildbaan' at the top right. Source: Gelders Archief
A detailed drawing (around 1690) 'Rheder-veer aan de IJssel' opposite 'de Valeweerd'. With view on the 'Rheder Enk', the 'Rheder bos', Rheden and the 'Wildbaan' at the top right. Source: Gelders Archief

"The landscape here formed impregnable boundaries as far back as the Ice Age", Verhoeven explains. There's a good reason why the border of the Roman Empire ran through this region. And many battles were fought around the rivers both during the Second World War and further back, during the Eighty Years War. Verhoeven: "Those battles caused a lot of damage to the region, but they also sometimes provided wealth, for example thanks to the money earned from the billeting of soldiers."’ 

Thinking of Holland 

The landscape greatly influenced how people in Gelderland lived while at the same time, they were continually forming their surroundings. Verhoeven refers to the famous poem by H. Marsman: ‘Thinking of Holland, I see broad rivers flowing slowly through infinite lowlands.' That's actually more about Gelderland. Rivers created the landscape here, provided fertile ground and made transport possible, so that people and goods from all over the world came to Gelderland. The rivers connected regions but they also created a distance between the various parts of Gelderland which is still sometimes tangible." 

Four parts 

Het verhaal van Gelderland' consists of four sections, each with many illustrations and maps. Part 1, entitled 'Gelderland before it became Gelderland' describes the period from prehistoric times to 1025. Part 2, 'Gelderland as an independent county and duchy' is about the history from 1025 to 1543. Part 3, 'Gelderland as a province of the Netherlands' covers the period from 1543 to 1794 and Part 4, 'Gelderland in the Kingdom of the Netherlands' the period from 1795 to 2020.

Each part was edited by experts in the history of Gelderland and the relevant period. They included Stephan Mols, Lotte Jensen and Wim van Meurs. Several researchers from the Radboud University contributed to the books, such as Johan Oosterman, who wrote about the medieval duchy of Gelre and Joost Rosendaal, who discussed the Batavian-French period. The authors worked on the sections of the book for more than three years, regularly meeting to discuss their findings on such themes as landscape, religion, economy and the relationship between Gelderland and the rest of the world.

'Het verhaal van Gelderland' was realised with support from the province of Gelderland. The book will be published on 10 November by Boom Publishers, Amsterdam. An overview of all authors and editors of the book can be found on the website of Erfgoed GelderlandIf you would like a digital sample or a review copy, please get in touch with Stephan Debouillé at Boom Publishers at s.debouille [at] boom.nl (s.)s.debouille [at] boom.nl (debouille[at]boom[dot]nl) or on 06 814 21 673. 

Contact information

If you have any questions about the research behind this book, please get in touch with Dolly Verhoeven at dolly.verhoeven [at] ru.nl (dolly[dot]verhoeven[at]ru[dot]nl) or with the press information and scientific communication team of Radboud University, by phone on 024 361 6000 or media [at] ru.nl (by email to media[at]ru[dot]nl). 


History, Society