History of Holland
By George Edmundson

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The dynastic connection of Luxemburg with Holland ceased with the accession of Queen Wilhelmina. The conditions under which the Belgian province of Luxemburg was created, by the Treaty of Vienna in 1815, a grand-duchy under the sovereignty of the head of the House of Orange-Nassau with succession in default of heirs-male by the family compact, known as the Nassauischer Erbverein, to the nearest male agnate of the elder branch of the Nassau family, have already been related. With the death of William III the male line of the House of Orange-Nassau became extinct; and the succession passed to Adolphus, Duke of Nassau-Weilburg. How unfortunate and ill-advised was the action of the Congress of Vienna in the creation of the Grand-Duchy of Luxemburg was abundantly shown by the difficulties and passions which it aroused in the course of the negotiations for the erection of Belgium into an independent state (1830-39). By the treaty of April 19, 1839, the Walloon portion of Luxemburg became part of the kingdom of Belgium, but in exchange for this cession the grand-duke obtained the sovereignty of a strip of the Belgian province of Limburg. This caused a fresh complication.

Luxemburg in 1815 was not merely severed from the Netherlands; it, as a sovereign grand-duchy, was made a state of the Germanic confederation. By virtue of the exchange sanctioned by the treaty of 1839, the ceded portion of Limburg became a state of the confederation. But with the revision of the Dutch constitution, which in 1840 followed the final separation of Holland and Belgium, by the wish of the king his duchy of Limburg was included in the new Fundamental Law, and thus became practically a Dutch province. The Limburgers had thus a strange and ambiguous position. They had to pay taxes, to furnish military contingents and to send deputies to two different sovereign authorities. This state of things continued with more or less friction, until the victory of Prussia over Austria in 1866 led to the dissolution of the Germanic confederation. At the conference of London, 1867, Luxemburg was declared to be an independent state, whose neutrality was guaranteed by the Great Powers, while Limburg became an integral portion of the kingdom of the Netherlands.

Since the middle of the last century the financial position of Holland has been continuously improving. The heavy indebtedness of the country, in the period which followed the separation from Belgium, was gradually diminished. This was effected for a number of years by the doubtful expedient of the profits derived from the exploitation of the East Indian colonies through the “Cultivation System.” With the passing of the revised Fundamental Law of 1848 the control of colonial affairs and of the colonial budget was placed in the hands of the States-General; and a considerable section of the Liberal party began henceforth to agitate for the abolition of a system which was very oppressive to the Javanese population. It was not, however, until 1871 that the reform was carried out. Meanwhile, chiefly by the efforts of Thorbecke, the methods of home finance had been greatly improved by the removal, so far as possible, of indirect imposts, and the introduction of a free trade policy, which since his days has been steadily maintained. Such a policy is admirably suitable to a country which possesses neither minerals nor coal[15], and whose wealth is mainly due to sea-or river-borne trade, to dairy farming and to horticulture. For its supply of corn and many other necessary commodities Holland has to look to other countries. The fisheries still form one of the staple industries of the land, and furnish a hardy sea-faring population for the considerable mercantile marine, which is needed for constant intercourse with a colonial empire (the third in importance at the present time) consisting chiefly of islands in a far-distant ocean.

Between 1850 and 1914, 375,430,000 fl. have been devoted to the reduction of debt; and the Sinking Fund in 1915 was 6,346,000 fl. Since that date Holland has suffered from the consequences of the Great War, but, having successfully maintained her neutrality, she has suffered relatively far less than any of her neighbours. Taxation in Holland has always been high. It is to a large extent an artificial country; and vast sums have been expended and must always be expended in the upkeep of the elaborate system of dykes and canals, by which the waters of the ocean and the rivers are controlled and prevented from flooding large areas of land lying below sea level.

Culture in Holland is widely diffused. The well-to-do classes usually read and speak two or three languages beside their own; and the Dutch language is a finished literary tongue of great flexibility and copiousness. The system of education is excellent. Since 1900 attendance at the primary schools between the ages of six and thirteen is compulsory. Between the primary schools intermediate education (middelbaaronderwijs) is represented by “burgher night-schools” and “higher burgher schools.” The night-schools are intended for those engaged in agricultural or industrial work; the “higher schools” for technical instruction, and much attention is paid to the study of the vier talen–French, English, German and Dutch. In connection with these there is an admirable School of Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry at Wageningen in Gelderland. To the teaching at Wageningen is largely due the acknowledged supremacy of Holland in scientific horticulture. There is a branch establishment at Groningen for agricultural training, and another at Deventer for instruction in subjects connected with colonial life. The gymnasia, which are to be found in every town, are preparatory to the universities. The course lasts six years; and the study of Latin and Greek in addition to modern languages is compulsory. There are four universities, Leyden, Utrecht, Groningen and Amsterdam. The possession of a doctor’s degree at one of these universities is necessary for magistrates, physicians, advocates, and for teachers in the gymnasia and higher burgher schools.

In so small a country the literary output is remarkable, and, marked as it is by scientific and intellectual distinction, deserves to be more widely read. The Dutch are justly proud of the great part their forefathers played during the War of Independence, and in the days of John de Witt and William III. For scientific historical research in the national archives, and in the publication of documents bearing upon and illustrating the national annals, Dutch historians can compare favourably with those of any other country. Special mention should be made of the labours of Robert Fruin, who may be described as the founder of a school with many disciples, and whose collected works are a veritable treasure-house of brilliant historical studies, combining careful research with acute criticism. Among his many disciples the names of Dr P.J. Blok and Dr H.T. Colenbrander are perhaps the best known.

In the department of Biblical criticism there have been in Holland several writers of European repute, foremost among whom stands the name of Abraham Kuenen.

Dutch writers of fiction have been and are far more numerous than could have been expected from the limited number of those able to read their works. In the second half of the 19th century, J. van Lennep and Mevrouw Bosboom-Toussaint were the most prolific writers. Both of these were followers of the Walter Scott tradition, their novels being mainly patriotic romances based upon episodes illustrating the past history of the Dutch people. Van Lennep’s contributions to literature were, however, by no means confined to the writing of fiction, as his great critical edition of Vondel’s poetical works testifies. Mevrouw Bosboom-Toussaint’s novels were not only excellent from the literary point of view, but as reproductions of historical events were most conscientiously written. Her pictures, for instance, of the difficult and involved period of Leicester’s governor-generalship are admirable. The writings of Douwes Dekker (under the pseudonym Multatuli) are noteworthy from the fact that his novel Max Havelaar, dealing with life in Java and setting forth the sufferings of the natives through the “cultivation system,” had a large share in bringing about its abolition.

The 20th century school of Dutch novelists is of a different type from their predecessors and deals with life and life’s problems in every form. Among the present-day authors of fiction, the foremost place belongs to Louis Conperus, an idealist and mystic, who as a stylist is unapproached by any of his contemporaries.

No account of modern Holland would be complete without a notice of the great revival of Dutch painting, which has taken place in the past half century. Without exaggeration it may indeed be said that this modern renascence of painting in Holland is not unworthy to be compared with that of the days of Rembrandt. The names of Joseph Israels, Hendrik Mesdag, Vincent van Gogh, Anton Maure, and, not least, of the three talented brothers Maris, have attained a wide and well-deserved reputation. And to these must be added others of high merit: Bilders, Scheffer, Bosboom, Rochussen, Bakhuysen, Du Chattel, De Haas and Haverman. The traditional representation of the Dutchman as stolid, unemotional, wholly absorbed in trade and material interests, is a caricature. These latter-day artists, like those of the 17th century, conclusively prove that the Dutch race is singularly sensitive to the poetry of form and colour, and that it possesses an inherited capacity and power for excelling in the technical qualities of the painter’s art.


General Preface  •  Prologue  •  Chapter I: The Burgundian Netherlands  •  Chapter II: Habsburg Rule in the Netherlands  •  Chapter III  •  Chapter IV: The Revolt of the Netherlands  •  Chapter V: William the Silent  •  Chapter VI: The Beginnings of the Dutch Republic  •  Chapter VII: The System of Government  •  Chapter VIII: The Twelve Years’ Truce  •  Chapter IX: Maurice and Oldenbarneveldt  •  Chapter X: From the End of the Twelve Years’ Truce to the Peace of Muenster  •  Chapter XI  •  Chapter XII: Letters, Science and Art  •  Chapter XIII: The Stadholderate of William II.  •  Chapter XIV  •  Chapter XV  •  Chapter XVI  •  Chapter XVII  •  Chapter XVIII  •  Chapter XIX  •  Chapter XX: The War of the Spanish Succession and the Treaties of Utrecht, 1702-1715  •  Chapter XXI: The Stadholderless Republic, 1715-1740  •  Chapter XXII: The Austrian Succession War. William Iv, 1740-1751  •  Chapter XXIII: The Regency of Anne and of Brunswick.  •  Chapter XXIV  •  Chapter XXV: Stadholderate of William V, continued, 1780-1788  •  Chapter XXVI: The Orange Restoration. Downfall of the Republic, 1788-1795  •  Chapter XXVII: The Batavian Republic, 1795-1806  •  Chapter XXVIII: The Kingdom of Holland and the French Annexation, 1806-1814  •  Chapter XXIX: The Formation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, 1814-1815  •  Chapter XXX: The Kingdom of the Netherlands–union of Holland and Belgium, 1815-1830  •  Chapter XXXI: The Belgian Revolution, 1830-1842  •  Chapter XXXII: William II. Revision of the Constitution.  •  Chapter XXXIII: Reign of William III to the Death of Thorbecke, 1849-1872  •  Chapter XXXIV: The Later Reign of William III, and the Regency Of Queen Emma, 1872-1898  •  Chapter XXXV: The Reign of Queen Wilhelmina, 1898-1917  •  Epilogue  •  Footnotes

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History of Holland, (Cambridge historical series)
By George Edmundson
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