Sometimes, history is not kind to the evidence of its events and people. Documents are destroyed in fire, books are torn apart by war and photographs end up being shoved in a shoe box at the back of someone’s closet. History ends up in the most interesting of hidey holes. That is the case for the diary of one such Dutch statesman. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (1547 – 1619) is considered one of the greatest statesmen in Dutch history. He was instrumental in the Netherlands’ emancipation from Spanish rule and was an active participant in the construction of the Dutch government. However, after a disagreement with the reigning monarch over a military campaign, Johan was executed for treason. During his eight month incarceration, Johan dictated diary entries to a servant. The diary is 40 handwritten pages, which provide insight into Johan’s state of mind and other aspects of the time in history. The original diary had not been documented as seen since 1825.
Fast forward to 2019, a book seller reached out to the Royal Library at the Haag and the Flehite Museum. “It seems to have been in a family library which was cleared up last year and the owner recognized it as something interesting and brought it in a big box to the antique-book handler.” (Boffey, 2019)
To celebrate the 400th anniversary of Johan’s death, the Flehite Museum has the diary on display, along with other items associated with Johan, his life and his death.
Boffey, Daniel (May 14, 2019) ‘A little miracle’: Dutch statesman’s diary found 200 years after it was lost. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/14/dutch-statesman-johan-van-oldenbarnevelt-diary-discovered-200-years-after-it-was-lost