Jack Abernethy is a current PhD candidate at the University of St Andrews, researching the Scots-Dutch Brigade from its origins at the outset of the Dutch Revolt up to the Twelve Years Truce in 1609. Jack’s thesis first analyzes the Brigade’s military contributions to the Dutch war effort, using sieges and battles like Haarlem (1572), Gembloux (1578), Nieuwpoort (1600), and Ostend (1600-1604) as case-studies for its successes and failures. The thesis will also examine the Scottish-Dutch diplomatic and mercantile networks which underpinned the Brigade before exploring the social integration of Scots into the emerging Dutch state. 

Although Jack is only in the second-year of his PhD, he has made serious reappraisals of the role which the Scots-Dutch Brigade had in the early days of the Dutch Revolt. Jack has found that size of the Brigade was far larger than any previous estimates have indicated: in fact, he has already identified more than twenty previously unknown company commanders… and that’s just for the 1570s! Additionally, though some historians have commented that the Brigade and its men were ‘too weak’ to influence events in Holland and Zeeland, Jack has discovered that its officers were at the forefront of fighting and, in some cases, negotiations over the fate of instrumental cities and towns like Haarlem, Ostend, and Bruges. 

Jack envisions his PhD as part of a larger project on Scotland and the Eighty Years’ War. Such a project would cover the full military service of the Brigade up to 1648, as well as examining maritime conflict and migration, diplomacy, and Scots-Dutch networks which stretched beyond the borders of the Dutch Republic. Jack is no stranger to the post-1609 era, having completed a 30,000-word masters’ thesis on the Brigade’s service and social integration between 1609 and 1648. He has also published on the Scots-Dutch Brigade in the journals Arquebusier, Northern Scotland, and Scotia and has two pieces coming out this year in the Oxford DNB and Northern Studies. Last year, Jack was involved in Billy Kay’s radio program, ‘Scotland and the Low Countries,’ which was broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland and has further planned publications for the near future.  In addition to his PhD research, Jack is an editor on Steve Murdoch and Alexia Grosjean’s Scotland, Scandinavia and Northern Europe database (SSNE), a free biographical database which catalogues British and Irish migration to Northern Europe in the Early Modern period. Jack is currently involved in writing biographies for the Scots-Dutch officer corps between c.1570-1707, and has authored or edited over 400 biographies so far. If you are interested in keeping up with Jack’s research or have any questions for him, you can follow him on Twitter (@JackAbernethy) or contact him through the SSNE.

Siege of Haarlem 1572 (Coenraet Decker, 1673 – 1681)

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