War atrocities committed by the Spanish army in the Low Countries during the 16th century are so ingrained in the collective memory of Belgian and Dutch societies that they generally assume a signature of this history to be present in their genetic ancestry. Historians claim this assumption is a consequence of the so-called “Black Legend” and negative propaganda portraying and remembering Spanish soldiers as extreme sexual aggressors. The impact of the presence of Spaniards during the Dutch Revolt on the genetic variation in the Low Countries has been verified in this study.
Materials and methods
A recent population genetic analysis of Iberian-associated Y-chromosomal variation among Europe is enlarged with representative samples of Dutch (N = 250) and Flemish (N = 1,087) males. Frequencies of these variants are also compared between donors whose oldest reported paternal ancestors lived in—nowadays Flemish—cities affected by so-called Spanish Furies (N = 116) versus other patrilineages in current Flemish territory (N = 971).
The frequencies of Y-chromosomal markers Z195 and SRY2627 decline steeply going north from Spain and the data for the Flemish and Dutch populations fits within this pattern. No trend of higher frequencies of these variants has been found within the well-ascertained samples associated with Spanish Fury cities.
Although sexual aggression did occur in the 16th century, these activities did not leave a traceable “Spanish” genetic signature in the autochthonous genome of the Low Countries. Our results support the view that the ‘Black Legend’ and historical propaganda on sexual aggression have nurtured today's incorrect assumptions regarding genetic ancestry.
- Larmuseau, M.H., Calafell, F., Princen, S.A., Decorte, R. & Soen, V. (2018). The black legend on the Spanish presence in the low countries: Verifying shared beliefs on genetic ancestry. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, -, -.
Peoples: Dutch, Flemish, and Spanish | Places: Belgian and Netherlands | Topics: Black Legend | DNA Type: Y-DNA