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Provincializing the Dutch State: South Holland in the 19th Century

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In contrast to the image of the Netherlands as a solid state since the early modern period, this article argues that Dutch statehood was the product of a hard-won process that required a good part of the 19th century to reach any sort of administrative consolidation. We look at state building from a decentered perspective, not so much from above or below, but rather from the middle, concentrating on the province of South Holland, and from within, foregrounding the piecemeal fine-tuning of the administrative system at the provincial level. We show that every administrative intervention had a spatial element or – to put it differently – created its own spatiality. The province, in that sense, was not a fixed territorial entity, but an amalgamation of spatial properties, depending on the administrative issue at stake.