The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477-1806

The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477-1806

The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477-1806

The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477-1806

Synopsis

The "Dutch Golden Age", the age of Grotius, Spinoza, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and a host of other renowned artists and writers, was also remarkable for its immense impact in the spheres of commerce, finance, shipping, and technology. It was in fact one of the most spectacularly creative episodes in the history of the world. In this book, Johnathan Israel gives the definitive account of the emergence of the United Provinces as a great power, and explains the subsequent decline in the eighteenth century. He places the thought, politics, religion, and social developments of the Golden Age in their broad context, and examines the changing relationship between the northern Netherlands and the south which was to develop into modern Belgium. This comprehensive and lucid account will be as useful to the reader primarily interested in artistic and cultural history as to the student who needs a survey of the Republic's institutions, class structure, and economic development. At the same time it will provide an invaluable aid to scholars interested in new research and new interpretations.

Excerpt

At the outset of such a large work it seems appropriate to provide a few words of explanation of the approach employed and the interpretative framework.

My aim has been to set the Dutch Revolt and the Golden Age in their wider context, which means the whole of the early modern period. As I have laboured on this work I have more and more become convinced that both the Revolt, and the Golden Age, only begin to make sense if we place them in their full setting. This means going back to the Burgundian period, on the one hand, and forward to Napoleonic times, on the other. The Union of Utrecht of 1579, the founding contract of the United Provinces, as the Dutch Republic was officially called between 1579 and 1795, is often seen as an abrupt break with the past; it assumes a quite different significance, however, when looked at against the backcloth of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

One of the main interpretative problems one encounters on approaching a task such as this is that of how to present the relationship between the northern Netherlands, roughly the area which developed into the modern kingdom of the Netherlands, and the south, roughly the area which later became modern Belgium and Luxemburg. When I began writing, back in 1982, I was as convinced as any colleague that, before the Revolt, there was no meaningful separation of north and south in the Low Countries, that there was just one Habsburg Netherlands in which the then seventeen provinces (despite wide differences between them) were more or less united under the rule of the Habsburg court in Brussels. It seemed clear that the centre of political, economic, and cultural gravity lay in the south and that the north was in many ways an appendage and subsidiary of the south. Looked at in this light, the separation of north and south which resulted from the Revolt of 1572, and which was confirmed by the events of 1579-85, appeared to be an artificial, unnatural rupture which had no basis in previous history. Pieter Geyl, the first historian to see clearly that there was no such thing as a 'specifically Northern consciousness', or Dutch national awareness, separate from that of the south, before the Revolt, was incontestably right on that point, but seemed to be correct also in the further conclusion he drew--that the outcome of the Revolt was an accident, with no roots in the past, which destroyed a greater unity. It would, I think, be . . .

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