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Dutch History Illustrated by ‘Schoolplaten’

1666 – Dutch fleet preparing for yet another battle against the British.

Yours faithfully had the privilege to attend primary school during the golden early sixties in the Netherlands and regularly thinks back with nostalgia to the class room, the three rows of two-seat-benches (‘schoolbanken‘) with build-in ink pots, the maps and the headmaster teaching history.

But the point of this post are the ‘schoolplaten‘, no need to translate that word into English, on the walls, mostly illustrating the great moments in Dutch history. Spending a weekend collecting almost all of them and put them in chronological order and adding comments, is all in all a very pleasant task.

A schoolplaat is a piece of hard carton with typical size of 80 x 110 cm, sometimes reinforced at the corners with a piece of iron and a picture painted on it, that is not directly High Art, but sufficiently attractive and above all lovingly made. The purpose was education of children, the first ones were brought to Holland from Germany in 1839, but from 1857 on-wards they were all Dutch made by artists like Jetses, Ising, Bueninck and many others and served their purpose until the sixties, after which they went out of fashion. The pictures usually have an idyllic character, the harsher aspects of life are avoided and Dutch history is presented in a positive light only.


Idyllic scenes of typical Dutch landscape

Below a large number of pictures that illustrate Dutch history in chronological order:

3450 BC – First builders of Dolmen or Hunebedden, that is prehistoric burial chambers. Built between 3450-3250 BC. The largest one near Borger.

55 BC – 410 AD – Romans in the Netherlands, southern half only.

Roman army camp, near the mouth of the Rhine river: Valkenburg (between Katwijk and Oegstgeest)

500 – Netherlands during the beginning of the Middle Ages. The Romans have retreated, other tribes fill the vacuum (Migration Period). Franks and Saxons (yours faithfully) enter the scene.

700 – Willibrord (658–739), one of the earliest Christian preachers, arriving from the north of England. Begins to Christianize the pagan North Germanic tribes of Frisia and will become bishop of Utrecht eventually.

785 – Ludger (742-809), another preacher concentrating on the northern parts (Groningen)

800 – Charlemagne (74x-814), basically the European Mohamed, does not take no for an answer and implements Christianity by brute force: the death penalty for those who refuse to understand that Christ means love.

834 – Viking raid Dorestad. The present day Swedes are not a shadow of their former selves.

1213- Crusade preparation.

1099 – Crusaders at the gates of Jerusalem

1290 – Floris V (1254–1296) taken prisoner by the English king Edward I and murdered. Floris V is one of the earliest statesmen with high profile. A nobleman but with a heart for the commoners and as such very popular. Nickname ‘der keerlen god’ (god of the peasants)

1305 – Tournament Haarlem [J.H. Isings]

1350 – Knighthood ceremony (Accolade)

1384 – 1482. For a century, large parts of the Low Countries become part of the Kingdom of Burgundy, due to heritage and marriage. [Burgundian Netherlands][map]

1400 – Typical medieval city in the Netherlands [J.H. Isings]

1417 – Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut (Jacoba van Beieren) visits Gorinchem. Context: Hook and Cod wars (Hoekse en Kabeljauwse twisten)

1430 – Order of the Golden Fleece, a chivalric order that exists until today. Founded 1430 in Brugges on the occasion of the marriage between Philip III, Duke of Burgundy and Portuguese princess Infanta Isabella of Portugal, daughter of King John I of Portugal. A few present day members: former Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, the former king Juan Carlos of Spain, the emperor of Japan, Nicolas Sarkozy.

1441 – City of Kampen, member of the Hanseatic League, a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and their market towns that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe [map Hanse cities][Brugges during Hanseatic times]

1450 – Village in Brabant, 15th century

1521 – Martin Luther, Diet of Worms, Germany. Religious reformer needs to defend himself against charges of heresy. The revolution started by Luther would have enormous consequences for the Netherlands and the rest of the western world. The Netherlands would be the first major state where Protestantism would became state religion, which would be exported to Britain and North-America.

1555 – Political map of the Netherlands, consisting of 17 united provinces.

1556 – Emperor Charles V abdicates and his son Philip II takes over. It won’t be long until serious trouble in the Netherlands will begin.

Willem van Oranje in de raad van state
1564 – William the Silent (Prince of Orange) in the Council of State (Raad van Staten), established 1531 by emperor Charles V, still exists and is one of the oldest government bodies in the world. Staten Island in New York refers to this body. [J.H. Isings]

1566 – Compromise of Nobles (Eedverbond der Edelen), a covenant of members of the lesser nobility in the Habsburg Netherlands who came together to submit a petition to the Regent Margaret of Parma on 5 April 1566, with the objective of obtaining a moderation of the placards against heresy in the Netherlands. This petition played a crucial role in the events leading up to the Dutch Revolt and the Eighty Years’ War.

1566 – Hagepreek (‘hedgepreach’), clandestine Protestant religious service in the open air.

1566 – Iconoclastic Fury (Beeldenstorm). Protestants attack Catholics churches and destroy statues [painting 1630, Dirck van Delen]

1568 – Decapitation Counts Egmont and Horne. Beginning of the Dutch Revolt and Eigthy Years War. Not a ‘schoolplaat’ but very important moment in Dutch history.

1568 – The Prince of Orange crosses the Maas river

80 jarige oorlog in kaart
1568 – Highlights of the Eighty Years’ War

1570 – Printing house Plantijn in Antwerp [museum] [J.H.Isings]

1572 – Bloodbath in Naarden by the Spanish [more]

1574 – Siege of Leiden, occurred during the Eighty Years’ War in 1573 and 1574, when the Spanish under Francisco de Valdez attempted to capture the rebellious city of Leiden, South Holland, the Netherlands. In the end the siege failed when the city was successfully relieved in October 1574. [pic1][pic2]

1580 – William of Orange (William the Silent), the great adversary of Fillip II of Spain and leader of the Dutch Revolt. “Vader des Vaderlands” (Father of the Fatherland)

1581 – Beginning of the reign of Philip II of Spain, the worst enemy the Netherlands ever had, ignoring for a moment the 1968 baby boomer generation.


1581 – Act of Abjuration Acte van Verlatinghe (Acte van Verlatinghe). The text would be used as a template for the American Declaration of Independence of 1783 [] [Acte shown to president Obama during recent Netherlands visit]

1584 – William of Orange murdered by Balthasar Gerards

1596 – Willem Barentsz discovers Spitsbergen.

1596 – Nova Zembla, het Behouden Huis. The Dutch were interested in finding a shorter route to the far East via the North. That effort failed and the crew stranded at Spitsbergen and were forced to survive the winter. [higher quality] [trailer movie]

1597 – Death of Wilem Barentsz on Nova Zembla

1596 – First journey to Bantam, West-Java. Cornelis de Houtman and his men go on shore near Bantam. [tekst]

1598 – Dutch ships near Bantam [1911, J.H. Isings]

1600 – Battle of Nieuwpoort between a Dutch army under Maurice of Nassau and Francis Vere and a Spanish army under Albert of Austria, which took place on 2 July 1600 near the present-day Belgian city Nieuwpoort. The original goal supported by the Staten and Oldenbarneveldt was to take out the pirate nest of Dunkirk, but unexpectedly a large Spanish army showed up. In the end the Dutch won, but the risk had been considerable. This event marked the beginning of the rivalry between Maurice and Van Oldenbarneveldt, which eventually would lead to the execution of the latter in 1619. [map battle scenes] The battle took place in the dunes and on the beach, 30 km from Dunkirk [google maps].

1602 – East India Company (VOC) founded and the West India Company (WIC) in 1621. The WIC covered the Dutch trading interests in the Western hemisphere and the VOC in Asia. The VOC is often considered to have been the first multinational corporation in the world and it was the first company to issue stock.

1606 – Willem Janszoon discovers the northern tip of Australia with his ship the Duyfken [more]. [replica youtube]

1619 – Prince Maurice and following, Vijverberg, The Hague. A conflict in the Netherlands between Maurice and van Oldenbarneveldt is brewing.

1619 – Decapitation Johan van Oldenbarneveldt

1619 – Synod of Dordecht. The Synod of Dort (also known as the Synod of Dordt or the Synod of Dordrecht) was an international Synod held in Dordrecht in 1618–1619, by the Dutch Reformed Church, to settle a divisive controversy initiated by the rise of Arminianism. The first meeting was on November 13, 1618, and the final meeting, the 154th, was on May 9, 1619. Voting representatives from eight foreign Reformed churches were also invited.

Hugo de Groot  in Loevenstijn
1621 – Hugo Grotius, Hugo Grotius (1583–1645), also known as Hugo de Groot, was a jurist in the Dutch Republic. With Francisco de Vitoria and Alberico Gentili he laid the foundations for international law, based on natural law. He was also a philosopher, theologian, Christian apologist, playwright, historiographer, poet, statesman and diplomat. Well known is the story of his escape from a prison in Loevestein Castle in a book chest.

1621 – Group portrait of the princes of Orange and Nassau, the leaders of the Dutch rebellion against Catholic Spain. In the end they would prevail and lay the foundation for the Dutch golden 17th century and the expansion of the Protestant revolution into Britain and North-America. These people represent the true origins of the modern world.

1626 – Dutch colonizers purchase Manhattan from the Indians for 60 guilders.

1629 – Frederik Hendrik near Den Bosch. Frederick Henry, or Frederik Hendrik in Dutch (1584–1647), was the sovereign Prince of Orange and stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel from 1625 to 1647. As the leading soldier in the Dutch wars against Spain, his main achievement was the successful Siege of ‘s-Hertogenbosch in 1629, It was the main Spanish base and a well-fortified city protected by an experienced Spanish garrison and by formidable water defenses. His strategy was the successful neutralization of the threat of inundation of the area around ‘s-Hertogenbosch and his capture of the Spanish storehouse at Wesel.

Ca. 1630 – Muiderkring: music and literature [J.H. Isings] In the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic, the Muiderkring was the name given to a group of figures in the arts and sciences who regularly met at the castle of Muiden near Amsterdam. The central figure was the poet Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft; Constantijn Huygens, Dirck Sweelinck, Vondel, Bredero and the poet sisters Anna Visscher and Maria Tesselschade Visscher were also considered part of the group.

1642 – Abel Tasman discovers Nieuw Zeeland (New Zealand) and, well, Tasmania (with such a name that was bound to happen).

1648 – Peace of Münster (part of the Peace of West-Phalia). The 80 Year War with Spain is over, the Dutch won and the peace is signed in the German town of Muenster in the framework of a general peace agreements that should end the devastating conflict between the Catholics and Protestants since 1517. Watershed event in European history.

1650 – Dutch whaling [1900-1950, C. Jetses]

Great Assembly of 1651
1651 – The Hague, Ridderzaal (Hall of the Knights) [Dirck van Delen]. Main building of the 13th century Binnenhof in The Hague, Netherlands. It is used for the state opening of Parliament on Prinsjesdag, when the Dutch monarch drives to Parliament in the Golden Carriage and delivers the speech from the throne. It is also used for official royal receptions, and interparliamentary conferences.

1651 – The Hague, Ridderzaal (Hall of the Knights) [schoolplaats version by J.H.Isings]

1660 – Vermeer, View of Delft

1663 – The capture of Kochi and victory of the V.O.C. over the Portuguese in 1663. Dutch-Portugese War. The Dutch–Portuguese War was an armed conflict involving Dutch forces, in the form of the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company, against the Portuguese Empire. Beginning in 1602, the conflict primarily involved the Dutch companies invading Portuguese colonies in the Americas, Africa, India and the Far East. The war can be thought of as an extension of the Eighty Years’ War being fought in Europe at the time between Spain and the Netherlands, as Portugal was in a dynastic union with the Spanish Crown after the War of the Portuguese Succession, for most of the conflict. However, the conflict had little to do with the war in Europe and served mainly as a way for the Dutch to gain an overseas empire and control trade at the cost of the Portuguese. English forces also assisted the Dutch at certain points in the war. The result of the war was that Portugal won in South America (Dutch Brazil) and Africa with the Recapture of Angola, and the Dutch were the victors in the Far East and South Asia. English ambitions also greatly benefited from the long standing war between its two main rivals in the Far East.

1664 – Fall of Nieuw Amsterdam. The British capture the town from the Dutch and rebrand it New York.

1664 – Skaters in Amsterdam

1665 – Unsuccessful English attack on the VOC fleet at Bergen

1665 – Rembrandt atelier. Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) was a Dutch painter and etcher. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art and the most important in Dutch history. His contributions to art came in a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age when Dutch Golden Age painting, although in many ways antithetical to the Baroque style that dominated Europe, was extremely prolific and innovative, and gave rise to important new genres in painting.

1666 – The Dam Square in Amsterdam

1666 – Krijgsraad Four Days’ Battle [schoolplaat]

1667 – Raid on the Medway, burning English ships. [The Anglo-Dutch Wars: 1667 Raid on Medway]

1669 – Flushing. Not a ‘schoolplaat’, but too beautiful not to incorporate in this list> This realistic painting is the closest to a photograph of a Dutch town you can get of 350 years ago.

1672 – Rampjaar (Disaster Year) – Hollandic Water Line Holland is attacked from all sides: by the British at sea, by French invaders from the south and German bishops from the east. The British wanted to destroy its main trade competitor, France wanted to conquer Dutch territory. In that case, Holland can resort to its last trump card: setting land under water, so the hostile armies can’t advance. And since armies are expensive, the strategy is to sit the siege out, until the enemy runs out of money. [map] For a full 18 months, life in the Netherlands came to a complete standstill. The Dutch leaders, the de Witt brothers had to pay with their lives for this disaster [graphic].

1672 – The inability to anticipate and avert an attack against Holland by all its neighbors will cost the de Witt brothers their lives and will bring back an Orange stadtholder, William III. Painting depicts all the stages of the murder.

1672 – Map Disaster Year. Large parts have been inundated, leaving Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague protected.

1676 – Funeral Michiel de Ruyter in Amsterdam [trailer 2015 movie] Michiel de Ruyter played a very important role during the 1672 disaster year in that he defeated the English at sea.

Unknown 17th Century Dutch Artist, Embarkation of William III, Prince of Orange, at Helvoetsluis, c. 1688-99, oil on canvas, Royal Collection.

1688 – Departure Dutch fleet, some five hundred ships and four times the size of the Spanish Armada of a hundred years earlier, from Hellevoetsluis to conquer Britain and Northern Ireland and make these folks Protestant. Every year, in several larger British, Irish and Canadian towns, there are so-called Orange Marches held to commemorate this event. [London][Glasgow][Stormont][Toronto] Holland, not Britain is the true origin of Anglosphere.

Arrival_of_William_III_of_Orange_in_England1688 – Dutch fleet at Torbay, near Brixham, Devon

1688 – Glorious Revolution, Landing of Dutch Stadtholder Willem III near Brixham [J.H. Isings], an event of monumental importance. The Protestant revolution that began in Germany in 1517 and consolidated in the Netherlands after the 80 Year War against Catholic Spain (1568-1648), was exported to Britain and Northern Ireland by the Dutch army and to North-America via Leiden/Holland by the Pilgrim Fathers (Boston, New England) and Peter Stuyvesant (Nieuw Amsterdam, New Netherlands). The revolution that succeeded in the Netherlands and as its main ingredients had: Protestantism, capitalism, work ethic, emancipation and liberty for the individual and freedom of religion, with Judeophilia as the unintended consequence, with vast repercussion for the reality of today. The seeds for the later success of Anglosphere were planted. The British don’t really like to talk about it, in sharp contrast to the Dutch.

1696 – Haarlem , Great Market by Gerrit Adriaensz. Berckheyde

1717 – Czar Peter the Great visits the Vecht area. While visiting the Netherlands, Peter learned much about life in Western Europe. He studied shipbuilding in Zaandam (the house he lived in is now a museum, the Czar Peter House) and Amsterdam, where he visited, among others, the upper-class de Wilde family. Jacob de Wilde, a collector-general with the Admiralty of Amsterdam, had a well-known collection of art and coins, and de Wilde’s daughter Maria de Wilde made an engraving of the meeting between Peter and her father, providing visual evidence of “the beginning of the West European classical tradition in Russia”. According to Roger Tavernier, Peter the Great later acquired de Wilde’s collection. Thanks to the mediation of Nicolaas Witsen, mayor of Amsterdam and expert on Russia, the Tsar was given the opportunity to gain practical experience in the largest shipyard in the world, belonging to the Dutch East India Company, for a period of four months. The Tsar helped with the construction of an East Indiaman especially laid down for him: Peter and Paul. During his stay the Tsar engaged many skilled workers such as builders of locks, fortresses, shipwrights, and seamen—including Cornelis Cruys, a vice-admiral who became, under Franz Lefort, the Tsar’s advisor in maritime affairs. He later put his knowledge of shipbuilding to use in helping build Russia’s navy

1750 – Transport in the 18th century: manpower (100 Watt) or horsepower (700 Watt). Trekschuit (towboat) and diligence, near Leiden. The year is a wild guess. [J.H.Isings]

1779 – The Hague, Great Hall. Another painting of the Great Hall of the Binnenhof, the Hague, by painter Hendrik Pothoven from the year 1779. In the background the trophies of the War of the Spanish Succession. It is very likely that these were destroyed when the French took over in the Napoleonic period, fortunatly these trophies were described in several booklets and pamphlets, which can be found at the site of the Rijksmuseum. The picture is ten from the history website “Geheugen van Nederland”.

1787 – Arrest Goejanverwellesluis. Wilhelmina of Prussia and wife of Stadtholder Willem V is arrested by so-called Patriotten. Leads to an attack by her brother Frederik Willem II of Prussia.

1787 – Goejanverwellesluis detail

Franse troepen-1795
1795 – French revolutionary army cross the Rhine river and occupy the Netherlands

1795-1813 – French Period, the Netherlands under French occupation. [map]

Shipyard [1800-1825, M. Guthschmidt]

1812 – Dutch conscription infantry crossing the Berezina bridges in Russia [Jan Hoynck]

1813 Willem 1 (Fredrik van Oranje) landt op Scheveningen
1813 – King willem I lands in Scheveningen. The French Period is over.

1814-1839 The Netherlands united.

1815 – King Willem I, national militia Quatre-Bras.

1825 – Dutch ships in harbor Nagasaki (Dejima). Dejima, in old Western documents latinized as ‘Decima’, was a small fan-shaped artificial island built in the bay of Nagasaki in 1634 by local merchants. This island, which was formed by digging a canal through a small peninsula, remained as the single place of direct trade and exchange between Japan and the outside world during the Edo period. Dejima was built to constrain foreign traders as part of sakoku, the self-imposed isolationist policy. Originally built to house Portuguese traders, it was used by the Dutch as a trading post from 1641 until 1853. Covering an area of 120 m × 75 m (9000 m2, or 0.9 hectares), it later was integrated into the city. [close-up Desima]

1839 – First railway line Amsterdam-Haarlem. Departure of the ‘Arend

1850 – Amsterdam in the middle of the 19th century


Holland=Holzland=Woodland. According to an old myth, a squirrel could travel from the German border to the North sea, without touching the ground, by jumping from tree to tree.

1880 – Dutch province of Frisia, extraction of peat in the 19th century.

1880 – Holland Mania in the US. “Holland Mania is an extraordinary book about a curious era in which a significant portion of the American sensibility celebrated all things Dutch. This Dutch sensibility – in contrast to earlier and prevailing notions of British traditions in America – was, for a time, almost maniacally taken up. For forty years between 1880 and 1920, this remarkable period in American cultural history took place. In 1903, an editorial in Ladies’ Home Journal announced to millions of American readers that Holland, not England, was the Motherland of the United States. Citing evidence of colonial Dutch influence in American politics, cultural institutions, social customs, and even language, the editorial concluded that all truly American characteristics and ideals originated in the Netherlands! It came at the height of a craze for Holland that affected Americans from nearly every geographic region of the United States.” Editor: Our interpretation of ‘Holland Mania’ is that around 1900, the United States began to change character. The original, constitutionalist, inward-looking, isolationalist America was changing into an imperialist America, which had everything to do with the gradual takeover of America by a certain minority from eastern Europe. The WASP-dominated society, based on people from western Europe, began to retreat. People start to investigate their own identity, when it can no longer be taken for granted. It was said minority who managed to set America on the war path via World War 1. That was the landmark event and afterwards America prepared to return to Europe, not to help the British to tilt the balance in the war they instigated, but to completely take-over Europe, together with their Soviet palls, after Russia was taken over in 1917 by exactly the same minority.

1886 – Veenkolonie [video] village in peatland. The relatively poor territories in the east of the Netherlands had an economy centered around the production of peat, a low grade fossil fuel that can be won by simply digging.

The peat village schoolplaat shows the Netherlands from above and illustrates that because Holland is ‘as flat as dime’, every square meter can and in fact is used for economic purposes. There is no great nature in the Netherlands, except perhaps the ever changing skies. A few years ago, Dutch television broadcasted a program named “Nederland van boven” (The Netherlands from above). It was a series of programs, where all aspects of Dutch life were considered from above, using drones, giving a penetrating picture of the Dutch natural environment. Some pictures are really spectacular. Dutch spoken, no English subs.

Nederland van boven

[part 1] – 24 hours Netherlands
[part 2] – Europe’s hungry mouth (maritime transport to provide 500 million Europeans)
[part 3] – Netherlands hobby land
[part 4] – Leisure time
[part 5] – Nature
[part 6] – Water, friend or foe?
[part 7] – Where we live
[part 8] – Where is the danger
[part 9] – Underground
[part 10] – The skies

1886 – Marken

1890 – Mother combs hair daughter

1890 – Garden

1890-family dinner
1890 – Family dinner

1894 – Dutch colonialists battling Balinese locals on the island of Lombok of present day Indonesia [Jan Hoynck]

1900 – Rotterdam harbor [1900-1925, B. Bueninck]

More than 50 schoolplaten, mostly about Dutch industry around 1900. [alternative]

1905 – Wad (mudflat) van Wierum [1905, B. Bueninck]

1910 – Giethoorn at the beginning of the 20th century [1900-1925, Bernardus Bueninck]

Pantserschip Jacob van Heemskerk-1910
1910 – Pantserschip Jacob van Heemskerk

Kampen aan de IJsel [1900-1925, B. Bueninck]

IJmuiden harbor [1900-1925, B. Bueninck] North Sea Canal, completed 1878, leads to Amsterdam.

merwedekanaal en IJ bij Amsterdam - 1900-1925
Merwedekanaal and IJ near Amsterdam [1900-1925, B. Bueninck]

1915 - spring time
1915 – Spring time [C. Jetses]

1915 – Wood chopping [Josef Hoevenaar]

1925 – Flushing harbor in Zeeland (‘Old-Zealand’) province. Note the submarine. [1900-1925, J. Dijkstra]

1925 – from coal to steam

Polder landscape in the province of South Holland

Leesplank (reading board) was widely used a century ago to teach children elementary words, by linking them to images. All these images were combined in the picture above. Compare the picture with the images from an original leesplankje

1930 – Nieuwmarkt, Amsterdam

1933 – Depression of the thirties. When capitalism fails, national socialism is the logical response, if you reject communism.

1944 – German occupation

1945 – ‘Liberation’ according to the Nuremberg tale. The Netherlands lost its colonial empire and became itself an American colony. Now in 2015, if we don’t kick the liberatorsconquerors in a place where it hurts, Dutch history is over and we’ll become a third world country.

1953 – Watersnoodramp (Flood). No Hansje Brinkers could stop the great flood of 1953, which caused nearly 2,000 people to drown. The response was an ambitious “Delta Plan” to increase defense measures against the sea, which is now completed.

1953 – Floriculture [Reality is more impressive].

Sinterklaas, a centuries old children’s party, now somewhat discredited because the inevitable political correct militias have decided to spoil one of the great joy’s in the life of a child and pretend to take offense at the Black Pete character, the servant of Sinterklaas. We even witnessed United Nations employees, smelling a chance of making themselves important, by marking the Netherlands as ‘a country of priority global concern’. Meanwhile, the UN has understood that these charges might be a bridge too far and they dropped the charges. World safe again. [Sinterklaas paintings]


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