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Roman sources on the ecclesiastical history of the Netherlands in the 16th century

Collected, edited and published by Gisb. Brom, A.H.L. Hensen, J.D.M. Cornelissen, R.R. Post, P. Polman, P.J. van Kessel and J.P. de Valk;in collaboration with E.M.R. van Kessel-Schulte and E. Lamberts

This eleven-volume series that appeared between 1922 and 1996, is the result of many years of research into archives and libraries in Rome, the Vatican and sometimes elsewhere in Italy. The key aim of that research was always to document sources on Dutch ecclesiastical history since the Reformation. The way in which the assignment was implemented over the course of time and the shape the research outcomes took differ greatly.

Originally, an edition was envisaged that would be broad in structure and would contain both clerical and political sources. However, only the first volume of the Roman Sources follows these principles. The work covers the years 1521-1592, the period of the Reformation and the Dutch Revolt. From that time onwards, when the clerical administration of the Catholics in the Republic fell into the hands of what Rome termed the Apostolic Vicars, the selection for the three subsequent volumes of the Roman Sources was restricted to ecclesiastical (‘kerkelijk’) material, which does not mean, however, that politics plays no role in these editions. They deal with the Dutch Mission (‘Hollandse Zending’) in the period up to 1727, the year in which a schism split the Catholic church in the Netherlands in two, after which the Roman curia took over administration directly. Philosophical and theological points of dispute concerning Jansenism played a large role in this split.

The period of administration by the Roman Vice-Superiors (‘vice-superiores’) up until 1853, is covered virtually in its entirety by the 5-volume Roman Documents that cover the years 1727-1831 and in which from the mid-18th century, political elements come to the fore ever more strongly due to the attitude adopted by the Catholics towards patriotism during the Batavian-French period and the period of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands with Belgium. For the years after 1813, the choice was made for a different structure and form: the two volumes up to 1831 also cover the current territory of Belgium and the selective publication of sources was changed into a detailed analytical inventory. For the years 1828-1831, this was supplemented with an edition of the exciting correspondence and reports of Francesco Capaccini, the first Papal Internuncio to the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

An analytical nature applies even more strongly to the archive guide in two volumes entitled Roman Documents, that contains Roman archive material concerning the Netherlands in the years 1832-1914 and which closes the series. For this period, the documents offer, among other things, an interest-arousing, external, Vatican perspective of the emergence of the Catholic population (‘katholieke volksdeel’), the laborious and gradual integration of Catholics into Dutch society and the start of divisions along socio-religious lines (‘verzuiling’). Archive material discovered later will be published in a digital supplement that continues up to 1922.

The published or documented texts are written in Latin, Italian, French and Dutch. All volumes and the digital supplement can be accessed via detailed indices of persons and matters and contain all kinds of additional information. Looking at the period as a whole, the released archives not only provide insight into ecclesiastical conditions and developments but also contain much information of a political-ideological, social, economic and cultural-historic nature, while it also touches on intellectual and mentality-historical themes. Finally, regarding the 19th and early 20th centuries, the material contains interesting information about the Dutch Mission in the colonies.