Tussen ‘vandalisme’ en ‘la manie de tout conserver’ | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 133, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 0040-7518
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1163



The history of the Dutch province of Limburg during the French period from approximately 1795 to 1815 is more like that of Belgium and the Rhineland than the north of the Netherlands. The province itself, in a border region of the Netherlands, is a creation of the nineteenth century with a very complex geopolitical history going back to the Middle Ages. So Limburg, located at the edge of several countries, is a region which has never received much attention at a national level. The same is true for the Limburg archives of the Ancien Régime. This is of particular note because the Limburg archives contain the oldest original sources in the Netherlands. Despite this, consulting the archives of the Ancien Régime was not attractive to historians until well into the twentieth century. In the past many records of institutions dating to the Middle Ages were deliberately destroyed or lost as a result of war, or taken abroad, or they were accidentally ‘forgotten’ and ended up in the attic. Not unjustly the revolutionary government during the French period has been regarded as bearing directly or indirectly a great responsibility for this loss. But this is not the whole picture, and the account must be more nuanced. Owing to secularization, records from religious orders were lost in the decades leading up to the French period; and after 1815 there was little interest in archives, except perhaps for financial reasons. Documents previously sent for safe-keeping abroad disappeared from circulation. However, sometimes by coincidence, sometimes by the concerted actions of lovers of old documents, a number of extremely important historical documents have been preserved. The largest part of these has over time been acquired by the State Public Record Office of Limburg. As a result of this collecting of archives from abroad, Limburg has a richer collection from this period than is found in the rest of the Netherlands.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): archives; French Revolution; Limburg; secularization
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