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October 18, 2018

#Dutch: Winner Libris History Prize 2018

by NancyElin




  1. The Dutch literary-historical scholar gives us  an
  2. incredible true story of the Late Middle Ages
  3. knight (ridder) Jan van Brederode. (1370-1415)
  4. Lord of Brederode was the heir apparent of an
  5. important Dutch noble family
  6. a lay brother in a Carthusian monastery
  7. mercenary who died during the Battle of Agincourt.


Book Cover:  I was intrigued…what does it mean?

  1. Van Oostrom has chosen an image of the Wheel of Fortune.
  2. In the Middle Ages is was a
  3. symbol of the capricious nature of Fate.
  4. Jan van Brederode’s fate:  a childless marriage.
  5. It led him on a roller-coaster life that would have been
  6. so different if only there was an heir.
  7. Here is a beautiful image by Jean Mielot with 4 stages of life:
  8. Left : I shall reign
  9. Top: I reign
  10. Right: I have reigned
  11. Bottom: lowly figure…I am without a kingdom


Strong point: archival research

  1. Van Oostrom is NOT relying on secondary sources or
  2. dated translations of medieval narratives.
  3. Van Oostrom ‘gets his hands dirty’
  4. ….does the hard work visiting achives in
  5. The Netherlands but most importantly
  6. …going to libraries in other neighboring  lands.


Strong point:   scholarly rigour which led to a literary discovery!

  1. Van Oostrom has found the author
  2. …of the Van Hulthem manuscript.
  3. It is nicknamed the “Night Watch of Middle Dutch literature”.
  4. This document is of invaluable importance
  5. providing a new look at the Late Middle Ages.


Strong point: readable

  1. Van Oostorm is a renowned Dutch historical scholar
  2. ….but he also knows his audience.
  3. He wanted to present to the average reader
  4. an intelligent picture of the Late Middle Ages
  5. in The Netherlands (1350-1450).
  6. His text is lucid, instructive yet has a ‘modern whiff’ using
  7. many familiar language idioms
  8. …and even references to
  9. Google maps  an making a parallel
  10. between the Frisian Wars in on the periode 1399-1407
  11. and the  1967 Vietnam debacle.


Strong point: scope

  1. Van Oostrom draws on the chronicles of
  2. …Jan van Leiden (ca. 1480) but does not
  3. venture off into stories about
  4. …pageants, the Plague or Papal Schism.
  5. He keeps the focus on Jan van Brederode and his family.
  6. Van Oostrom brings history closer to the reader showing us
  7. …that people in the 21st C are so similar to those in the 14th C.
  8. We both struggle with debts, marriage (pressure to produce an heir)
  9. inheritance rights, family loyalty, a ‘Shylock’ of a father-in-law (Willem van Abcoude)!


Strong point: last chapters

  1. Just when I thought I had
  2. reached my ‘history’ saturation point
  3. Van Oostrum revives me with a heartfelt chapter 
  4. about the importance of  historical investigation.
  5. He refers to many fellow 21st C historians
  6. who have provided pieces to a larger puzzle
  7. that give us all new insights into the past.
  8. #Bravo, Frits van Oostrom!

Read more from Dutch, HIstory

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