Pre-Napoleonic centralization in a decentralized polity: the case of the Dutch Republic

F.P. Wagenaar, S. Groenveld, F.M. van der Meer

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The interest in the origins of present-day government is often derived from the thought that its current functioning and problems can be at least partially explained by the institutional choices made at the moment of origin. The institutional reforms made during the so-called French (or Napoleonic) era divert attention from the at least equally relevant Ancien Régime reform origins. For a thorough understanding of the origins of a 'modern' governmental system we have to examine the Ancien Régime period more closely. This is highly relevant in the Dutch case. Contrary to popular opinion, during the Republic a more centralized system of government did gradually develop from the two power centers (Stadtholders and Estates-General). Points for practitioners The importance of the Dutch case is that it highlights, due to the very absence of monarchical absolutism, the deeper mechanisms working towards centralizing (the system of) governance. © The authors, 2010.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-64
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Review of the Administrative Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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