In the beginning of the 19th century, the Napoleonic period left deep scars on the Netherlands. However, few people know how we resisted French annexation. During his PhD research, Nijmegen historian Bart Verheijen stumbled across resistance songs that symbolise this in a wonderful way. Verheijen has now launched a crowdfunding campaign to make the songs available to a wider audience.
A unique source of resistance
Die tyrant! Long live Oranje! Seize your weapons, free Batavians! The song lyrics offer a good sense of the impact that the French annexation had on the population. The songs were also sung to circumvent the strict French system of censorship. From 1806 to 1813, when other forms of media were no longer or not yet available, these songs of resistance also served as the primary means of informing and connecting the people.
Basis for contemporary folk songs
What makes these songs extra special is that many of the melodies form the basis of contemporary folk songs, including ‘het Wilhelmus’ and the ‘Marseillaise’.
A new perspective on the resistance against Napoleon
Until recently, the texts lay in the Parisian archive of the Napoleonic police. Verheijen has mapped them out and traced their meanings. Along the way, he got the idea of setting the songs to music to bring them back to life. Verheijen: ‘The Dutch certainly did oppose Napoleon’s domination, but until now little has been known about the reality of this resistance. By putting the songs to music, I can let the general public hear how ordinary people must have experienced the annexation. This is about as close to history we can get.’
Help bring these songs to life
The musical resistance against Napoleon is a neglected aspect of our history. ‘The songs sung at that time deserve a wider audience because they have contributed to the formation of an early Dutch identity.’ By recording the songs with professional musicians and making them available with lyrics and explanations they will gain new life. But money is required to make this happen: €3,500, for starters. Help giving these songs their deserved place in history by donating through this site! All donations are welcome. Thank you very much for your support!