The Dutch have long been enthusiastic petitioners. For centuries, Dutch citizens in their masses filed requests and petitions with every conceivable authority. They submitted proposals and made their wishes and interests known, but they also called their leaders to account. Due to the citizens’ active role in the political process, the country and the machinery of governance took shape together.


Petitions offer a unique source for investigating the relationship between ordinary citizens and politics, but they also help us to understand various aspects of community formation. NL-Lab also researches the value ascribed to political participation by citizens and governments in the Netherlands. How have politicians and political commentators assessed the acceptability, desirability and utility of this political instrument? To discover the answers, we analyse petitions, pamphlets, treatises, government publications, and reports on parliamentary debates and constitutional commissions.


The situation in the Netherlands is compared to that in other European countries. The Dutch petition research is embedded in the broader international research network on Petitions and Petitioning from the Medieval Period to the Present. This network consists of more than fifty international petition researchers from different disciplines, and organises various workshops. Joris Oddens is one of the network’s leaders, and is the editor of a new academic handbook on petitions in the past and present.


NL-Lab also encourages digital access to the rich collections in this area. For example, Oddens is involved in a project on the thousands of petitions that were filed with the legislative councils of the Batavian Republic between 1796 and 1801. In partnership with the National Archives and a group of enthusiastic interns from various Dutch universities, the project involves scanning the petitions and adding metadata.



  • Nationaal Archief

  • Vaderlandse Geschiedenis, Universiteit Leiden


Related projects



Elisa Hendriks and Joris Oddens, ‘Bataafse vrouwen, politieke rechten en het digitaliseringsproject Revolutionaire Petities. Twee onbekende verzoekschriften uit het jaar 1799’, Holland 52:1 (2020) 11-19.


Joris Oddens, ‘The Experience of State Formation: Chronicling and Petitioning on the Dutch Island of Ameland (c. 1780–1815)’, National Identities 22:1 (2020) 1-22.


Joris Oddens, ‘So close and yet so far: Degrees of emotional proximity in pauper letters to Dutch national power holders around 1800’, in: A. Stynen, M. Van Ginderachter en X.M. Núñez Seixas (red.), Emotions and Everyday Nationalism in Modern European History (Routledge 2020) 34-50.


Jane Judge and Joris Oddens, ‘Father Figures and Faction Leaders: Identification Strategies and Monarchical Imagery among Ordinary Citizens of the Northern and Southern Low Countries (c. 1780-1820)BMGN – Low Countries Historical Review 133:3 (2018) 72-97.


Joris Oddens and Ivo Nieuwenhuis, ‘Using Satire in Historical Research: Comments on the Practice of Petitioning from the Dutch Age of Revolution (c. 1780–1800)’, Eighteenth-Century Studies 51:2 (2018) 219-33.


Joris Oddens, ‘Verzoekschriften aan het Bataafse parlement. Een terreinverkenning’, Jaarboek Parlementaire Geschiedenis (2017).


Joris Oddens, ‘The Greatest Right of Them All: The Debate on the Right to Petition in the Netherlands from the Dutch Republic to the Kingdom (c. 1750-1830)’, European History Quarterly 47:4 (2017) 634-56.