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The Belgian Revolution and the volunteers of 1830-1831


Admission requirements



“To arms!” In the fall of 1830 this rallying cry rang through the northern part of the Netherlands. It was an emotional response to the revolution that had broken out in the southern part of the kingdom (present-day Belgium). King William I called upon his male subjects to do their patriotic duty and help him punish the “mutinous” Belgians. His appeal did not fall on deaf ears: many young – and not so young – men voluntarily joined the army or one of the civic militias. Others were not that enthusiastic and had no wish to be part of this military effort that culminated in the so-called “Ten Days’ Campaign” in August 1831. Although the reactions to the king’s call to arms were indeed quite diverse, the years 1830-1831 are nevertheless generally considered to be a period in which feelings of patriotism (and orangism) among the Dutch reached a high level of intensity. Historians have found it difficult, however, to explain this agitation and the military muscle-flexing that went with it, as it seems to contradict the idea that Dutch political culture normally was rather conciliatory and non-military. So where did this belligerency come from all of a sudden?

Taking the secondary literature on the Belgian Revolution as our starting point, we will take a fresh look at these events from the perspective of the volunteers of 1830-1831. Who were they? Where did they come from? What was their social background? And, above all, what motivated them to fight the Belgians? Was it indeed patriotism? To answer these questions, we will study a wide array of sources, such as archival documents, letters, diaries, newspaper articles, brochures and poems. In short, this research seminar will focus on how these volunteers experienced and expressed their national identity, thereby enlarging our knowledge of this intriguing concept. In order to draw sound conclusions, we will address the methodological question of how to research concepts like patriotism and nationalism. Therefore we will familiarize ourselves with the current debate on and understanding of 19th century nationalism in Europe. So, we won’t treat ‘our’ volunteers as an isolated phenomenon, but we’ll study them in a broad European context.

Course objectives

The student will gain insight and knowledge into:

  • The ability to independently identify and select sources;

  • The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question;

  • The ability to analyze and evaluate literature and sources for the purpose of producing an original scholarly argument;

  • The ability to interpret a corpus of sources;

  • The ability to give a clear written report on the research results in English or Dutch;

  • The ability to engage with constructive academic feedback;

  • The ability to give a clear oral report on the research results in English or Dutch;

  • Knowledge and comprehension of key concepts of the Political Culture and National Identities specialization, particularly nationalism, national identities, political practices and public debate;

  • Knowledge and comprehension of the dual concept of civil versus military culture;

  • Knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the Political Culture and National Identities specialisation, more specifically international comparison and transfer; the analysis of the specific perspectives of secondary studies; a cultural-historical approach of politics and a political-historical approach of culture;

Extra course objectives for Res Master Students:

  • The ability to interpret a potentially complex corpus of sources

  • The ability to identify new approaches within existing academic debates

  • Knowledge of the interdisciplinary aspects of the specialisation


View Timetable History

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

A total of 280 hours :

  • 28 hours for class attendance.

  • 72 hours for reading assignments and preparing an oral presentation

  • 180 hours for writing a paper.

Assessment method

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average of:

  • Class participation (10%)

  • An oral presentation on a theoretical or methodological topic, based upon a reading assignment (10%)

  • An oral presentation on the research for the paper (10%)

  • A paper of approximately 7.500 words (70%)

The extra course objectives for the Res Master students will be met as follows:

  • The paper should be based upon a wide array of sources;

  • The theoretical or methodological topic for the oral presentation will be of a relatively complex interdisciplinary) nature.

  • Both the oral presentations and the paper should show an ability to reflect critically and independently on theoretical and methodological issues.


Blackboard is used for this course:

  • Literature

  • Powerpoint presentations

  • Discussion

Reading list

To be announced


via uSis


dhr. Prof.dr. B. Schoenmaker