Neptune and the Netherlands: State, Economy, and War at Sea in the Renaissance

Neptune and the Netherlands: State, Economy, and War at Sea in the Renaissance

Neptune and the Netherlands: State, Economy, and War at Sea in the Renaissance

Neptune and the Netherlands: State, Economy, and War at Sea in the Renaissance

Synopsis

This book investigates how the rulers of the Habsburg world empire developed and implemented a central maritime policy for the Netherlands and appointed an admiral of the sea or admiral-general for that purpose. It also explains why the Habsburgs were eventually unable to gain control of the maritime affairs of the Netherlands, in spite of the support of the powerful Burgundian Lords of Veere, who occupied the central position of admiral from 1491 to 1558. From their power base on the island of Walcheren in Zeeland, known as the key to the Netherlands at the time because of its central location between Holland, Flanders, Antwerp and the sea, they held an ideal vantage point for exercising the admiralship. The result not only offers an illuminating insight into the organisation of the war fleet, maritime trade and fishery, privateering and prize law in the Habsburg Netherlands, but also puts the success of the later Dutch Republic in a new perspective.

Excerpt

In a maritime country like the Netherlands, maritime history is rightly considered a separate specialisation. However, the disadvantage of this is that 'ordinary' historians gladly leave maritime history up to the 'specialists'. That is a pity, because as a result maritime history sometimes seems to be unrelated to general history, and that is of course not the case, especially not in a country whose territory has been won to some extent from the sea. By focusing on the maritime aspects of the process of state formation in the Netherlands, the aim of this book, despite the ongoing specialisation in history, is to connect political, institutional and economic history with maritime history and to analyse the interactions between them. After all, the establishing of new connections is a way to gain new insights.

Moreover, by starting not with the Dutch Republic in the Golden Age but with the preceding Habsburg Netherlands, it is possible to avoid the well-trodden paths of the national traditions of history writing and to strike out in new directions. It also enables comparisons to be made between the coastal provinces of Holland, Zeeland and Flanders, and between ports like Antwerp and Amsterdam. Many historians in the Netherlands and Belgium, accustomed as they are to working on the basis of the opposition between the Protestant Republic in the North and the Catholic Monarchy in the South, have adopted a national perspective and attempted to chop the Burgundian and Habsburg periods up into Northern and Southern pieces. However, awareness is gradually dawning that such a division is an obstacle to gaining insight into the history of the Low Countries from the arrival of the Dukes of Burgundy to the outbreak of the Dutch Revolt. Art historians also seem to be aware of this, as can be seen clearly enough from how they have dealt with the work of the painter Jan Gossaert, whose Neptune and Amphitrite (1516) graces the cover of this book. While in the past Gossaert was classified under either South Netherlandish or North Netherlandish painting, it is nowadays more common to refer to 'early Netherlandish painting'.

It goes without saying that the research on which this book is based could not have been done without the support of many. I

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