Date of Award

Fall 2001

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Dana Heller

Committee Director

Francis Adams

Committee Member

Lawrence Hatab

Committee Member

Austin Jersild

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H85 V33 2001


The Synod of Dordrecht was an important event in the history of the Dutch Republic. A serious, combined religious and political conflict between orthodox and liberal Calvinists had brought the Republic to the brink of civil war. The forceful intervention of the stadholder Prince Maurice in 1617 had cleared the political situation and it was the task of the Synod to solve the religious aspect of the conflict. The Synod was a victory for orthodox Calvinism; the Reformed Church, the state and local governments were purged from liberal elements, and new laws, limiting further the freedom for non-Reformed religions were decreed. This thesis sees the Synod of Dordrecht as a remarkable moment in the ongoing process of interaction between the Calvinists and the rest of the Dutch population. This interaction will be analyzed in order to explore the influence of Calvinism upon the development of freedom in the Netherlands.

The Calvinists were fanatical and well motivated, but they were a small minority of the population. To achieve their goal, they needed the support of the powerful group in the middle. In the southern provinces of the Netherlands fundamentally different ideas about freedom prevented a lasting cooperation between the nobility and the Calvinists. In the northern provinces the Calvinists formed a successful coalition with the regents. Two groups, the Calvinists and the regents, which needed each other, but at the same time tried to achieve different goals, determined the political history of the Dutch Republic. Most of the time there was a balance, but there were times in which the balance was seriously disturbed. The Synod of Dordrecht is a moment in the history of the Republic in which the balance was disturbed in favor of the Calvinists.

The conclusion of the thesis is that Calvinism had a significant influence on the Netherlands, and that without the Calvinists the Dutch Republic, with its unique tolerant society, never would have existed. Ironically, this toleration was the reaction of the group in the middle against the intolerance of the Calvinists.


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