Paths for freedom and progress
When an Empire dissolves. Reboot 460 years ago
NOTICE ARCHIVE - 13/11/2020

It was a damp evening in the early 1560s when Walter Kapell was marched through a silent crowd in the town square. He had just been convicted of heresy by the Inquisition, and he would only have a few more minutes to live. Kapell was a wealthy man and beloved by the townspeople of his native Diksmuide in modern day Belgium. He reportedly gave much of his wealth away to feed and clothe the poor, and his many beneficiaries turned up to watch his execution in horror.

This was a period in history when the Catholic Church, having long ruled over European society, started to lose its grip on power. The Church fought back aggressively against this threat to its power, and the Inquisition, also established in the ‘United Provinces’ (which includes modern day Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) was legendary for its brutality.
People the United Provinces were overwhelmingly Catholic. But for the most part the average citizen was easy-going and supported religious freedom for Protestants. In 1558, for example, when the Inquisition in Rotterdam sentenced several protestants to death, local Catholic citizens rescued them from the stake. Any execution that did take place was horrifying for Catholics and Protestants alike. And then, in the 1560s, a few particularly gruesome executions took place. One of them was Walter Kapell. Again, Kapell was loved by everyone-- Catholic and Protestant. And his death was so painful that a Flemish peasant threw himself onto the very pyre where Kapell was being burned to death, reportedly screaming:

"Ye are bloody murderers! That man has done no wrong but given me bread to eat."
Another victim, an Anabaptist whose name has been lost to history, was hacked to death with a rusty blade in front of his family. Thomas Calberg, a weaver from the town of Tournay in modern Belgium, was burned alive because he had some Protestant hymns in his possession. These executions prompted both Catholics and Protestants in the United Provinces to say ‘enough is enough’. And in the summer of 1566, the United Provinces exploded into full blown social revolution.

On June 28th, 6,000 people gathered in Tournay (where Thomas Calberg was executed). Within two days their ranks had swelled to 10,000. Within a week, 20,000.The protests quickly spread across the provinces. In Antwerpen, one of the most commercially important cities of the day, 30,000 protesters gathered, many of them armed. It didn’t take long for things to become violent.
Around the same time, prominent Dutch noblemen from the region saw the political tides shifting, and they began to swear allegiance to the protestors. Many prominent noblemen supported the sacking of churches. In March 1568, angry mobs (which included many Catholics), stormed into churches and cut off the ears of priests. Anyone who did not vocally and publicly disavow their identity as a Catholic was in danger. And even though the mob was only a small percent of the population, it was able to take over local governments. They almost immediately imposed their own version of the Inquisition, stamping out anyone who practiced or tolerated Catholicism. The lawlessness and chaos was so pronounced that citizens across the United Provinces—both Catholic and Protestant—wondered whether the new Inquisition was actually worse than the old one.

The economic effects were devastating. Antwerp and Amsterdam emptied out. Businesses shuttered, and many prominent entrepreneurs left altogether and fled to England. Entire industries left the United Provinces, never to return. Their businesses relocated to other countries, vastly benefitting those foreign economies. And this chaos in the United Provinces raged on, literally for more than eight decades. 
Reboot. Compare this with what is happening today. 

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