Dutch referenda

Most of the Spanish press screw up and write that today’s referendum is the first in Holland’s history. Not true: constitutional referenda were held in 1796, 1798 and 1801, while Holland was occupied by … the French. Symbolic local referenda were also held in 1952 over a European constitution whose progress was blocked by the election of an anti-federalist called Charles de Gaulle.

(Simon Schama’s Patriots and Liberators is a must-read account of how French imperialism destroyed what might conceivably have provided a European mirror for the American revolution. A period quote: “The French Patriot seizes his arms and flies to the place where he can use them on behalf of the cause of freedom; the Dutch Patriot, told that his redeemers are at hand on his frontier, stuffs his pipe full of tobacco and goes peacefully to his back parlor for a quiet smoke.”)

(Update: NRC Handelsblad says ($) that the word “referendum” first appeared in Dutch in 1892.)

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