Going Dutch: How England Plundered Holland's Glory

by Lisa Jardine

Paperback, 2009



Harper Perennial (2009), Edition: Reprint, 432 pages


In this book, Lisa Jardine assembles new research in political and social history, together with the histories of art, music, gardening and science, to show how Dutch tolerance, resourcefulness and commercial acumen had effectively conquered Britain long before William of Orange and his English wife arrived to rule in London. This is the remarkable story of the relationship between two of Europe's most important colonial powers at the dawn of the modern age. Jardine demonstrates how individuals such as Christopher Wren, Isaac Newton and successive generations of the remarkable Huygens family, usually represented as isolated geniuses working in the enclosed environment of the country of their birth, in fact developed their ideas within a context of easy Anglo-Dutch relations that laid the vital groundwork for the European Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution.--From publisher description.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member jcbrunner
Having bought a secondhand paperback copy of this book, an appropriate Dutch manner, I found Lisa Jardine's writing amusing but clearly below her usual standard. The title does this book a severe disservice, as the book's content might be better labeled "The Huygens family - 17t century Dutch
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diplomats and brokers to Europe's kings and pretenders". Largely based on the Huygens family papers, Lisa Jardine tells the story of how Constantijn Huygens and his offspring, among them genius physicist Christiaan Huygens, played important roles as courtiers, art brokers and diplomats to pretenders, kings in exile and kings during the 17th century. Onto these vignettes about art, diplomacy and gardening, she tacks on her familiar plea of restoring Robert Hooke to scientific prominence and one chapter about Anglo-Dutch commercial and colonial rivalry.

What does the title express? Going Dutch usually means that each participant pays for his own consumption. In this historical case, the English sought and received Dutch Protestant assistance to undertake the Glorious Revolution. The Anglo-Dutch partnership broke down all too soon. The Grand Alliance was hobbled by English and Dutch squabbling. Queen Anne continued the Scottish line on the English throne before it ended up in German hands. Jardine's focus on Huygens prevents her from presenting a panorama of Dutch influence.

What should have been noted is that the Netherlands were the traditional refuge for English monarchs (see for example Edward IV during the War of the Roses). In contrast to a Scottish exile, the Netherlands offered easy access to the continental centers of power while still being beyond their reach. Jardine with her late 17th century focus doesn't mention the importance of Dutch printers in the reformation either. What she does discuss is the very important cultural transfer in art. The Dutch were so influential in selling European art that renowned English painters only emerge in the late 18th century.

The main Dutch influence on England lies just in the spheres Jardine devotes the least space to: the commercial world and the navy. Naval and commercial rivalry pushed England to greatness. Dutch innovations combined with English scale ushered in the modern era.

Overall, at two pounds, it was a worthy Dutch treat.
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LibraryThing member thorold
As others have said, this is not a particularly well-written book, clearly cobbled together from various loosely-connected articles written at different times. It doesn't seem to make much effort to prove its point. It's a bit of a strange concept, anyway. How can you discuss Anglo-Dutch relations
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and cultural interchange in the Stuart period without any mention of the role of France (or, for that matter, Scotland)?

There is quite a bit of interesting material there, but very little of it was new to me: on the whole, I think I learnt more about the Huygens family and their role in Anglo-Dutch relations from an hour in the Huygens museum in Voorburg than from Jardine's book.

One I'm glad I was able to borrow rather than buy.
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LibraryThing member Eyejaybee
In this entertaining study of British history from the late seventeenth century Professor Jardine analyses he steps that brought about the Glorious Revolution which saw James II deposed in favour of his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange. While everyone remembers the failed Spanish
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Armada of 1588, the far larger and more effective Dutch invasion fleet that set out against Britain exactly one hundred years later tends to be overlooked in the communal shared memory of history (at least in Britain!).
However, although Britain was either openly at war with, or at least in a state of muted belligerence towards, Holland throughout much of the 1670s and 1680s, there was a flourishing exchange of cultural endeavour, and even the open correspondence about scientific and technological advances (even though many of them were of military value). This was, after all, a golden age for science, which saw the launch of the Royal Society under the patronage of Charles II.
This is territory that Professor Jardine has already richly harvested in her biographies of Wren and Hooke, and "Ingenious Pursuits", her history of the Scientific Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment. She writes with a great clarity that lets her immense enthusiasm shine through. Of course, it is not at all surprising that she should show such zest for the pursuit of knowledge - after all, her father was Professor Jacob Bronowski. However, her particular gift is the ability to convey that enthusiasm to her readers, even those without a strong scientific grounding themselves.
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Cundill History Prize (Finalist — Grand Prize — 2009)

Original language


Physical description

432 p.; 5.69 inches


0060774096 / 9780060774097
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