PhD defence Jaap de Haan: Was the position of Grand Pensionary of the Dutch Republic really as unique as is often thought?

Raadspensionarissen Johan van Oldenbarnevelt en Johan de Witt. Bron: via Wikimedia Commons

On 9 December, Jaap de Haan will defend his thesis ‘De eerste minister van de Republiek’ (‘The first minister of the Republic’), in which he researched the role of the Grand Pensionaries of the seventeenth century.

Unique post?

In the seventeenth century, the Dutch Republic, or the United Provinces of the Netherlands, was guided by well-known Grand Pensionaries, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (1547-1619) and Johan de Witt (1625-1672).

It has long been thought that the office of Grand Pensionary was a unique post in early modern Europe. To check whether this assumption is correct, Jaap de Haan compares the Grand Pensionary in his thesis with another early modern administrator: the first minister in European monarchies.

The first minister

De Haan compares three Grand Pensionaries, namely Van Oldenbarnevelt, De Witt and Gaspar Fagel (1634-1688). He analysed their performance on the basis of four functions: the administrative, executive, political and representative function. All three Grand Pensionaries made use of these functions to be able to govern Holland (and the Republic).

De Haan discovered that the functions of the Grand Pensionary are also recognisable among the early modern first ministers in Spain, England, France, Sweden and Brandenburg. In a similar way they ruled the kingdom on behalf of their monarch.

The office of the Grand Pensionary of Holland thus shows many similarities to his administrative counterpart elsewhere in Europe. De Haan therefore concludes that the Grand Pensionary can be seen as the prime minister of the Republic.

Start date and time
End date and time
Hybrid: online (click here) and at the Utrecht University Hall
PhD candidate
Jaap de Haan
De eerste minister van de Republiek
PhD supervisor(s)
Prof. M.R. Prak
Dr. D.M.L. Onnekink