Peasants' War (1798)

Peasants' War
Part of the French Revolutionary Wars

Peasants gathering, Constantin Meunier (1875)
Date12 October 1798 – 5 December 1798
(1 month and 23 days)
LocationSouthern Netherlands annexed by the French Republic
(modern-day Belgium, Luxembourg and German border lands)
Result French republican victory
France French Republic Counter-revolutionary peasants
Commanders and leaders
France Claude-Sylvestre Colaud Pieter Corbeels
Casualties and losses
In Flanders, c.15,000 dead
In Luxembourg, 200–300[1]

The Peasants' War (French: Guerre des Paysans, Dutch: Boerenkrijg, German: Klöppelkrieg, Luxembourgish: Klëppelkrich) was a peasant revolt in 1798 against the French occupiers of the Southern Netherlands, a region which now includes Belgium, Luxembourg, and parts of Germany. The French had annexed the region in 1795 and control of the region was officially ceded to the French after the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797.[2][3] The revolt is considered part of the French Revolutionary Wars.

Motivations for War

After the Southern Netherlands was annexed by France, the French Revolutionaries began to implement their policies regarding the Catholic Church. The Civil Constitution of the Clergy required that priests take an oath of allegiance to the state. Priests who refused such an oath were considered to be enemiesnon-juring priestsof the state and could be removed from their positions and homes.[2] Additionally, in early 1798 the French Council of Five Hundred passed a law requiring compulsory military service. This law ordered the conscription of men between the ages of 20 and 25 in all French territories. General conscription like this was a relatively new product of the French Revolution, and was met with anger by the young men who were forced into service.[4]

By region


The majority of the conflict during the Peasants' War occurred in Flanders (Lys and Scheldt départements) and Brabant (Deux-Nèthes and Dyle départements). Referred to as the Boerenkrijg, it is referenced by some historians as a Belgian national revolt, and an indication of a desire for independence by Belgium.[2][3]

In Flanders the revolt was somewhat organized, with the people seeking aide from Foreign nations such as England and Prussia. On October 12, 1798, the revolution began with peasants taking up arms against the French in Overmere. Initially the rebellion was somewhat successful, however, lacking proper arms and training it was crushed less than 2 months later on December 5 in Hasselt. An estimated 5,000-10,000 people were killed in during the uprising. Additionally, there were 170 executions of the leaders of the rebellion.[5]


In Luxembourg (Forêts département), the revolt was called Klëppelkrich. This revolt quickly spread, consuming most of West Eifel.[6] The primary combatants in Luxembourg were the peasantry. The middle and upper classes were not driven to revolt as the anti-clericalism and the modernisation brought by the French Revolution were somewhat beneficial to them.[6]

Lacking both financial support from the middle classes, and proper military training, the peasants were quickly put down by the French occupation force. Ninety-four insurgents were tried and, of those 42, were executed.[7]

In later culture


  1. "De Verlaf vum Klëppelkrich" (in Luxembourgish). Histoprim. Retrieved 10 September 2007.
  2. 1 2 3 Andre de Vries (16 May 2007). Flanders: A Cultural History. Oxford University Press. pp. 10–. ISBN 978-0-19-983733-5.
  3. 1 2 Ganse, Alexander. "The Flemish Peasants War of 1798". World History at KMLA. Korean Minjok Leadership Academy. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  4. Trausch (2002), p. 205
  5. Orts 1863, p. 211
  6. 1 2 Kreins (2003), p. 66
  7. Brown, Howard (June 2005). "Revolt and Repression in the Midi Toulousain". French History. 19 (2): 252. doi:10.1093/fh/cri013.


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