In his PhD thesis on local Utrecht government, Wim van Schaik finds that the typical Dutch 'poldermodel', that was said to have vanished after 1795 and returned not earlier than at the end of the nineteenth century, had a longer life in the Utrecht countryside. The defence will take place on Wednesday 10 January.
Due to growing discontent about the national government in the 1780’s a revolutionary movement attempted to regain the old days of the Golden Age, with its local autonomies. The effect of this Patriotic movement was the opposite of what they had intended. The creation of the Bataafse Republiek at first seemed hopeful, but under French influence the liberties that still had existed disappeared step by step. Centralization overtook the role that democracy was originally intended to play. However, at the end of this period, the situation of the countryside government had lesser changed than one should have expected.
Emphasis on central government
After the revolutionary turbulence in the period 1795-1798 it appeared that people with the same background as the pre-1795 rulers were still in charge in the government of 1813. Thanks to the exceptions that were made in the successive constitutions for the small communities, even a substantial local autonomy had remained. This was mostly due to the short time the Napoleonic rule had lasted. However, the path Napoleon set out was followed by his successor, king Willem I. The emphasis was still stricter placed on central, royal, government. For the first time there came a regulation for the villages.
Local autonomy during strict regulations
The concluding chapters throw a light on this period with its strict rules for appointments and policies. The schout became ʻburgemeesterʼ, he was the central person in the village with great local powers. It is surprising to see that even in that period of strict regulations a number of villages endeavored, and sometimes succeeded, in following their own plans. The group of people who made these local policies, still resembled very much the group that did so at the end of the eighteenth century. Therefore it can be said that the 'poldermodel', that was said to have vanished after 1795, had a longer life in the Utrecht countryside.