Dutch history as seen by the Dutch

I was expecting the museums and story lines of the Netherlands to rejoice in  the “golden age” of Dutch economic and trading success and naval power, the seventeenth century. I was not disappointed. Nor did I begrudge them their celebrations of  two great naval triumphs. They did force the surrender of the Prince Royal, The English flagship, in the four days battle in the 1665-7 war, allowing them to destroy it with fire after allowing the sailors off the vessel. Admiral Ruyter later in that war launched an audacious and successful raid against the English fleet at anchor in the Medway, destroying 6 ships and towing away a seventh. It was the English Admiralty’s biggest disaster. The Dutch celebration of it on a beautiful cup presented to the Admiral was entirely justified.  The Dutch navy tended to have fewer large ships, but it offered brave and sometimes successful opposition to English power.

The two museums I visited that told some of this story glossed over the English acquisition  of New Amsterdam,  now New York, in the same war, and some  English victories that also peppered largely inconclusive naval wars on and off between 1652 and 1674. The unpleasant violence of the colonial and trading rivalry between the two countries was brought to a welcome end by the peaceful invasion of Britain by Prince William of Orange, married to Mary Stuart. The British establishment welcomed them and switched allegiance to them so their arrival and assumption of the crown was uncontested. The two countries  moved to naval co-operation.

The museums did try to broach the long shadow cast over western European nations by slavery. Where a UK museum would be able to counter point the misery of slavery with the important role played later by leading British figures to secure the end of the slave trade, the Dutch museums just acknowledged the bad life of the slaves and the role of slavery in helping to create the great wealth of the merchant classes in the seventeenth and eighteenth century Netherlands. It was also clear from the Rembrandt displays that arms manufacturers and dealers were some of the richest patrons.

Beneath these dark clouds there are the eternal light drenched canvasses showing the sheer abundance of food and household comforts that Dutch commercial success and wealth brought. Much of the wealth was honestly come by from successful manufacture and trade.  For many Dutch people life was good, especially in the golden age. There was also reasonable social mobility, with people moving through hard work and enterprise from poverty to well heeled lifestyles.

The odd thing about the presentations was the episodic nature of the exhibits and stories, and the large missing gaps. I can appreciate the life and success of the Dutch golden age. I was surprised by the complete absence of material on the evils of the twentieth century occupation in the second world war, and the apparent sidelining of the Great war being waged just a few miles down the road in what was the southern low countries.

It is true that there was one other long shadow hanging heavy over Amsterdam which they do remember. I could not myself face going to Ann Frank’s house. It is such a heart wrenching story. To their credit the Dutch do remember the massacre of the Jews, whilst otherwise  ignoring  several years of being occupied by the Germans. Similarly, there are Napoleon memorabilia of his brother as King and then Napoleon himself as Emperor of an annexed Netherlands, but little about what this meant for those who had to live under the French tyranny.

It was perhaps fitting, however, that by far the largest painting in the Rijksmuseum is a large portrayal of Wellington receiving news at Waterloo of the imminent arrival of the Prussians. Waterloo meant their liberation.


  1. zorro
    September 6, 2016

    We enjoyed the Rijksmuseum when we visited. They do gloss over WW1 and their quick takeover by Germany is not something that they like to look back on. Did you see the bit about their colonial history in the Far East (Indonesia)?


    1. Horatio
      September 6, 2016

      Good Morning JR,

      I know this is off topic but since the referendum an issue has played on my mind. Electoral fraud. I took my voting card to the polling station but my offer to show ID was turned down, I could have been anyone. It is an absurd situation. I know of many students registered in 2 different areas who had the ability to vote twice too. It strikes me that the British Electoral system was designed in a period where you could trust your neighbour or fellow citizens to ‘do the right thing’. Charles Moore was even reported to the police by the electoral commission for raising this, absurd!

      What is the government doing to resolve this issue?

  2. Mark B
    September 6, 2016

    Good morning.

    Many thanks to our kind host for this post. A refreshing diversion from the norm. 🙂

    One thing left out though and may not have been covered but worth a mention. And that of the Tulip Mania: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20160419-tulip-mania-the-flowers-that-cost-more-than-houses

    A cautionary tale that can apply to many a modern bubble.

  3. Duyfken
    September 6, 2016

    I wonder if there were much mention in the museums of the British-Dutch rivalry in the East. Their significant holdings in the Indies, the exploration and mapping of “New Holland” (including a voyage of discovery in a small boat called “Duyfken”) and of surrounding areas, played an important part in early European settlement. The Dutch colonial influence helped to shape much of present-day south-east Asia.

  4. Iain gill
    September 6, 2016

    Nicky Morgan going to vote against the government she says. Don’t believe in brexit. Silly (woman ed)

    1. Ronald Olden
      September 6, 2016

      Iain Gill.

      Nicki Morgan is entitled to Vote against any ‘Brexit Deal’ she doesn’t agree with. But she in NOT entitled to Vote against Brexit itself. She stood on a Manifesto in 2015 which stated that there would be a Referendum and and that the Government would abide by the result. The country voted to leave the EU, so that’s the end of it.

      There appears to be a confusion in the minds of these Remainiacs. We did not promise and hold a Referendum to obtain permission to ‘negotiate’ anything, and then decide later whether the deal was acceptable to Nicki Morgan. We had a Referendum to determine whether we should remain in the EU on any terms. The ballot paper was clear and so was the pledge by David Cameron during the campaign.

      If Nicky Morgan refuses to honour the Manifesto on which she was elected she is not morally entitled to stay as the Member of Parliament for Loughborough. Had she confessed to her electorate in 2015 that she was not going to abide by the Referendum Result she might well not have held the seat.

    2. Lifelogic
      September 6, 2016

      She was Cameron’s choice for Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities, Economic Secretary to the Treasury and Financial Secretary to the Treasury – so that is what you would expect. Yet another lefty pro EU law graduate in the wrong party. Also one who seemed to want schools to ignore court judgements and not to teach children about atheism and similar.

    3. fedupsoutherner
      September 6, 2016

      Iain, how many of us believe in Nicky Morgan?

      September 6, 2016

      Oh and what has happened to Anna Soubry MP? People here have commented on her before but I never thought of her in any other way much but competent.

      Yet at the absolute mind boggling victory of the Leave campaign, she did appear on TV to take it all uncharacteristically personally. Genuinely upset and disbelieving.
      Her contribution in Parliament yesterday was rather more confrontational to her Tory Party colleagues than I have noticed previously. I do not agree with her but it is good to see and hear someone who seems to have a genuine and heartfelt view. Such an attitude would make her wholly unfit for Labour benches other things being equal. She’s obviously intelligent so could never be a Libdem unless they highered the membership entrance examination somewhat.

    5. a-tracy
      September 6, 2016

      I wonder if she was one of the mps that voted against a referendum?

    6. Denis Cooper
      September 6, 2016

      There’s a big difference between saying that MPs must vote before the government can be permitted to serve the Article 50 notice that we intend the leave the EU, and saying that MPs must vote on whatever is negotiated after service of the notice.

      As I understand she only wants the latter, she’s not proposing to try to vote to keep us in the EU. Of course MPs will have to vote on Acts to repeal ECA72 and approve new treaty arrangements with the other countries.

    7. Bob
      September 6, 2016

      She already had her vote on 23rd June. One man one vote (if only).

    8. Oggy
      September 6, 2016

      She obviously doesn’t believe in democracy either.

      Speaking of Brexit if yesterday afternoon’s performance is the best David Davis can do after 10 weeks work we will still be in the EU in 30 years time. OR maybe that is the plan.

      1. bigneil
        September 6, 2016

        John mentions an annexed Netherlands – any country that wants to stay in the EU will be annexed. They will cease to exist as more and more control goes to the capital of the new continent of Geurmany.

      2. Denis Cooper
        September 6, 2016

        I’m not sure what you expected after just 8 weeks work to start to extricate us from the consequences of 43 years of EEC/EC/EU integration.

      3. Tom William
        September 6, 2016

        Give him a chance! He is preparing for negotiations, not revealing his bottom line.

        Criticism of the rejection of a points system does not mean abandoning controls. Under a points system far more people could be eligible than under a work permit scheme.

      4. Lifelogic
        September 6, 2016

        Indeed but I suspect it is not David Davis’s fault. It needs to be a united cabinet decision and Mrs May has spent most of her time pole walking, having interviews with Andrew Marr (where she give no answers at all to any of the questions) and a bit of globetrotting photo ops.

        The only real things Theresa has said are that she will not have a point based system (but she has not said what she actually does want) – This is clearly totally bonkers, some sort of quality control is surely essential. Call them points, merits, bananas bonuses, snozzcumbers or whatever you clearly need some way to measure merit!

        Oh she also indicated she might continue with a racist immigration system of EU good, USA, Canada, Australia, NewZealand, India, China….. bad.

        1. Martin
          September 8, 2016

          According to an item the Telegraph in 2015 we had

          277 000 NON EU immigrants and 270 000 from the EU.

          Given the UK can control the non EU amount at present I am surprised that the EU free market total is less than the controlled NON EU amount!


      5. Iain Gill
        September 6, 2016

        Don’t think Ms May’s performance was very good either.

        If she thinks she can wander on without a clear vision for how she is going to reduce immigration she is sleep walking out of power. If she thinks she can carry on like she did as home secretary and just pay the issue lip service while doing nothing she will face defeat at the ballot box.

  5. Lifelogic
    September 6, 2016

    Indeed all very interesting, but back in the UK, Mrs May said yesterday that:- “the British people voted for some control of immigration into the UK and that a points based system does not give you that control”.

    This sounds about as sensible as saying Schengen gave the UK control of its borders. What planet is this woman on? Clearly a points based system can give you as much or as little control of your borders as you wish. It all depends on the design of the system and how the points are awarded and the threshold set.

    You might say only people with ÂŁ100 million in the bank, who are under 25, have no health problems, are attractive to look at and have degrees in nuclear physics can get the required points to come in or you might say anyone who has 50p can say three words in English and a smile can do so.

    Clearly she not understand the concept of points?

    How can she come out with such complete and utter nonsense, and then not even say what her suggested alternative is? What on earth is she trying to do?

    My wife now says she has to turn the television or radio over when Mrs May comes on as she is so pedestrian and tedious with her delivery. Rather like a slightly dim school teacher talking slowly to naughty young school children.

    When is she finally going to say or even do something sensible? We need far more than the vacuous “Brexit means Brexit”. Only three + years to the next election.

    1. Bert Young
      September 7, 2016

      Your wife must be very fit . If it is as heavy as ours , she must have the strength of an Olympian !

  6. eeyore
    September 6, 2016

    The Dutch are the first modern nation, born out of heroic struggle, proof of the old axiom that true freedom can never be given but must be taken, and, if that were not enough distinction, makers of the very land they dwell on. If ever a people began with nothing, the Dutch did, and if ever one rose to greatness through their own efforts, they have.

    As for slavery, we should not forget that until 200 years ago it was taken for granted by both slavers and slaves. The melancholy truth is that if your grandfather enslaved my grandmother, my grandfather sold her to you. Secondly, rich beyond imagining as we are in all forms of energy, we should not condemn utterly those who had only muscle power to get them through the world. And lastly, human nature doesn’t change. We are the people our ancestors were. Were we in their place and they in ours, we should very likely behave as they did.

    When one man gets power over another, so often it seems his first thought is how to make him miserable. That, I think, is one of the lessons of slavery. I’m not sure we’ve learned it.

  7. Nig l
    September 6, 2016

    That invasion by William of Orange also gave us gin. They bought over genever which was not to our taste but the story goes that Mary Stuart or one of her ladies broke a bottle of perfume that somehow got into the genever, that was tasted/drunk for some reason and our gin with the botanicals evolved.

  8. Ian Wragg
    September 6, 2016

    During WW2 the Dutch had a very chequered history. A large part of the population supported Germany and gave material help.
    My uncle who fought in the glider drops over the Netherlands always said you didn’t know which side they supported .
    I worked with the Dutch in the Middle East and have great respect for their work ethic and most were scathing about their politicians.

  9. sm
    September 6, 2016

    I’ve got a lot of time for the Dutch, used to work with some dashing Naval Officers more than 40yrs ago while working in the Defence business.

    However, possibly the lack of coverage of WW2 history is due in part to surprising analysis that showed that the Dutch were the most eager among European nations to co-operate with their Nazi occupiers.

    1. Mitchel
      September 7, 2016

      I don’t know if it was the case with the Dutch specifically but we should never forget that at least part of the appeal of Nazism/Fascism on the continent was the bulwark it presented(or posed as)against the spread of Bolshevism during the 20s and 30s.

  10. Antisthenes
    September 6, 2016

    Clever people the Dutch are skilled in so many ways. Average height I believe is way above the rest of Europe. Having tall dykes must have caused that. Tenacious and fervently patriotic. Due I suspect of having to throw out or repel the Spanish and French with a little help from the English. If it had not been for 1066 I understand English today would be very similar to Dutch at least Freisian Dutch. Perhaps they will join the UK in declaring independence they do have a history of doing that. If not now I am sure one day they will when they realise what a con the EU is.

  11. Peter VAN LEEUWEN
    September 6, 2016

    Thanks for a nice description. Personnaly I see the Rijksmuseum much more as a collection of art than as a conscious attempt to trace Dutch history. As art collections go, there wasn’t much made during German WWII oppression, Dutch colonial atrocities in Indonesia after WWII or due to the Netherlands helping to found the European post WWII project.
    In general, I don’t think the Dutch care as much about their history as the British would.
    For instnace, very few Dutch will ever have heard of the Dutch 1581 Act of Abjuration, which helped to inspire both the 1689 British Bill of Rights and Thomas Jefferson for the US declaration of independence. (and to me it is all ancient history, the future is more interesting to me).

  12. JJE
    September 6, 2016

    Perhaps the lesson to be drawn is that we all find it difficult to look objectively at our own histories. The Dutch are a pretty direct, straight talking people.
    One of the main benefits of travel, and even more of spending some time living abroad, is the ability to see our own country with fresh eyes when we return home.

  13. Ian Wragg
    September 6, 2016

    O/T I have just been reading the Japanese demands from Brexit. It is illuminating that a country that has almost zero immigration to protect its identity believes we should continue open house for their benefit
    Being lectured by these countries can only increase the clamour for Brexit
    Then we have Barry putting us at the back of the queue when he will be unemployed shortly.
    These people overestimate their own importance.

  14. Bert Young
    September 6, 2016

    Long may the good relationship with the Dutch last . Apart from the many invasions and enemies they have faced in their background , there is also the resourceful engineering feat of defeating the sea . The decision that was made to build the dykes and the drainage system was a model to the world ; the enormous expense in initiating and maintaining this was , and still is , a considerable chunk of their revenue expense .

  15. Kevin
    September 6, 2016

    JR writes: “the peaceful invasion of Britain by Prince William of Orange, married to Mary Stuart. The British establishment welcomed them and switched allegiance to them so their arrival and assumption of the crown was uncontested.”

    I am not a historian and do not intend to get involved in a debate about the pros and cons of the so-called “Glorious Revolution”. As a contemporary patriotic British Catholic, however, I am inclined to view the above comment as history being written (or appealed to) by the victors.

    Furthermore, as a Brexiter, I am not inclined to look with favour on the precedent of an establishment transferring the British Crown to a non-English speaking ruler with the apparent purpose of disenfranchising my ancestors.

    September 6, 2016

    At one time, ( I don’t know if it has changed ) Germans were not taught anything in their schools about WW2 from any angle whatsoever.In my well-known and customary Cleese-like manner, I’ve always tried to engage Germans in a chat about the war. Especially mentioning Mein Kampf and whether the English version with its boring half-page footnotes was an accurate translation as even Russians such as Solzhenitsyn have never been translated, in my opinion, properly. But they told me Hitler’s book was banned but they could if they so wished read it on the internet.This seemed to me very free-thinking of their government.

    As to the Dutch, I recall a special reprint of the front page the British Sunday newspaper News of the World…reprinted for some reason or other. It was about and dated at the allied liberation of Holland. It seems the Dutch were starving to death and had taken to eating tulips ( not a good idea ). It seems the only way the Germans could feed them was if the British were to stop the invasion so German food lorries could deliver the necessary supplies. Stone me but the British and Germans did it right in the middle of the invasion. The News of the World wrote matter-of-factly that German lorries carrying food for the Dutch were allowed to drive in convoy past British tanks without interference. Apparently it was a regional temporary ceasefire organised by German and British generals “on the ground” in the battlefield.What with the very heavy bombing by Bomber Command of highly populated Dutch ports it was a confusing time for the Dutch. All of us really, everyone.

  17. brian
    September 6, 2016

    Were not the defeats by the Dutch spurs for a fundamental reform of the Royal Navy, not least by one called Samuel Pepys?

    1. Mitchel
      September 6, 2016

      Also around that time Peter the Great went to the Dutch shipyards to learn the trade,actually working as a carpenter,returning to effectively found the Russian Navy.

    September 6, 2016

    Off Topic:
    First:There does not seem to be a valid reason why a Points System on immigration would give rise to an automatic permission for a migrant to enter the country. Not unless you were daft enough to indicate by law ” This minimum amount of points entitles you walk on our land irrespective of all other considerations” Mrs May does not appear as daft as she evidently suspects.

    Second: The British people did not vote for “MORE control” of our borders as Mrs May repeatedly indicates but FULL control. She obviously misheard and continues to mishear, repeatedly.

    Third: Mr David Davis MP was pointedly but possibly rhetorically asked yesterday in Parliament: ” Surely you can tell us , definitely, that the triggering of Article 50 will take place BEFORE the next General Election in 2020? ”

    He did not answer.

  19. Denis Cooper
    September 6, 2016

    I think David Davis did well yesterday, very clear and confident. Some of the criticisms from the opposition parties were pretty pathetic. They seem to forget that if Andrea Leadsom had not done the patriotic thing and stood down then we would still be waiting to see who was going to be the new Prime Minister, as the voting would close at noon this Friday. As it is we have the new Prime Minister and we have two new major government departments set up from scratch and quickly getting organised, and the government is gradually forming its view on what the UK should seek when the withdrawal negotiations start. Standing up in the Commons and whining that after barely eight weeks in a huge and complex new job with a completely new department the minister can still not provide all the details is self-evidently just a waste of everybody’s time; I suspect the main reason they do it is so they can get some local media coverage in their constituencies. Incidentally I think it also a waste of time for each MP to personally congratulate the new minister on his appointment, even when they obviously don’t mean it; the Speaker could have just done that at the start on behalf of the whole House, and suggested that members should make the best use of the limited time.

    If I was going to pick out the most important exchange in yesterday’s debate then it would be this at Column 57:


    “Mr Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con)

    May I join the chorus welcoming the Secretary of State to his post, and also welcome the Prime Minister’s statement about Britain becoming a global leader on free trade? May I urge him to follow the example of Japan and, indeed, every other non-European member of the G20 in engaging in free trade deals and negotiations, which is never to give up national control over immigration or, indeed, pay a fee?

    Mr Davis

    My hon. Friend, who is an old friend of mine, is exactly right. The most successful countries in the world in establishing free trade deals – this might surprise Members – are places such as Chile and South Korea. They never, ever give up anything other than access to their own market in exchange for a free trade deal. Not one of them gives up money or immigration rights.”

    Perhaps followed by this, in his reply to Kenneth Clarke at Column 45:

    “I do not think that when people are concerned about immigration, it is necessarily xenophobia. Economic, social and other pressures lead to people’s concern about the issue. Nor do I think that it is a simple trade-off. I do not think that an immigration control system that suits our country is necessarily one that will preclude a good trade relationship with the European Union. Trade relationships are beneficial to both sides, and we should not need to make a policy purchase in order to secure such a relationship.”

    Well, he could tell that to the Italian minister for commercial development, who reckons that we should not only continue buying more goods from the Italians than we sell to them, to the tune of something like ÂŁ8 billion a year, we should also continue to allow every Italian to move to our country if he so wishes.

    And if we don’t agree to do what he says:


    “The more they are going to regulate and limit the presence of EU citizens in the U.K, the more we are going to limit the presence of U.K. goods into Europe,”

    Why? Because:

    “There should be a balance there. You cannot be here in the single market but at the same time excluding some part of the European relationship which is very important.”

    Well, that’s a rather peculiar idea of “balance” – we take Italian products, and we also take as many Italian citizens as may care to come here – and we’ve just voted to not have that very important part of the present European relationship.

    Not that I see immigration from Italy over the past 43 years as having created any great problems for us, and I’m certainly not proposing that we should drive out those who are already here even if their home government behaves with this kind of stupidity.

  20. Dr James Thompson
    September 6, 2016

    Excellent post, full of historical detail. David Landes said the Dutch might have launched the Industrial Revolution if it had not been for the fact that their brown coal could not reach the higher temperatures of Welsh anthracite.

  21. Timaction
    September 6, 2016

    I read today that your new unelected head of the Tory party has unilaterally decided that she thinks the British people want “some” control over immigration from the EU or an element of control. She repeated this five times. This is absolutely incorrect and she knows it. Mrs May doesn’t have to suffer the consequences of mass migration. Is she going further back in the queue for housing, health or education or legislate to put British people first? No. Is she suffering the consequences of congestion? No. Does she have a care for our culture or heritage? No. Building on our greenbelt? No. Mass migration is the biggest concern of British people and as expected she is going to fudge it on her mantra of her beloved EU. The people have spoken, given her our instructions and she is still ignoring them. 184 Tory MP’s should not be allowed to decide the destiny of 17.4 million who voted out! There will be trouble if she continues to backslide as politicians will have shown to be irrelevant.

      September 6, 2016


      Judging by all the rhetoric coming from all sides including the Brexiteers 0n the Tory Front Bench, there is absolutely no likelihood whatsoever under any circumstances that the Tory Party is going to deliver Brexit…absolute control of our borders and an independent limit or complete end to immigration.
      Article 50 should be triggered immediately and even then Mrs May does not seem likely or her Brexiteers to honour the Referendum result completely. It will be EU membership by another name.
      I should think Farage, darn it, will be back within the next 12 months. UKIP will not win however, but the Tory Party will lose though unless they are prepared to honour the Referendum, now!

    2. James Munroe
      September 6, 2016

      I voted to take back complete control of immigration from the EU.

      I do hope May doesn’t think she has a mandate to negotiate some sort of partial control of EU immigration, in exchange for EU trade.

      1. Hope
        September 6, 2016

        I was on holiday in the UK shared a lunch table with a Dutch couple. They thought the UK wanted isolation from Europe and could not understand why we were not scared. They remarked everyone appeared relaxed and not panicking. I assured them we wanted to be friends with all European countries and trade with them all, we did not want to become a single country ruled by unelected, highly paid, selfish bureaucrats who cared little about any of the European countries. I wonder what horror stories the Dutch media were putting out.

        We read today May rebukes Davis for saying the UK might leave the single market. The direction of travel for Maybappears to be getting clear, she is striving for EU light. JR, time May was made history.

    3. Denis Cooper
      September 6, 2016

      Correct, we want to regain TOTAL control of our immigration policy, and why should we not join all the other countries around the world which have that total control over their immigration policy? That is the natural state of affairs, not some scheme to give other people even a share in the control over who can settle in your country.

    4. graham1946
      September 6, 2016

      How can she not be against the proper control of immigration? After all, she was a dismal failure at it. Immigration went up and up on her watch.

      Should there be a system which actually works she will look even worse and as we know a politicians pride is more important than democracy so she is bound to try to find an ineffective way of doing it, whilst trying to give the impression that something is being done. The Tories, as usual, picked the wrong leader – they’ve been doing it for the last 25 years, since Major.

    5. hefner
      September 6, 2016

      The referendum question was: “Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU?” Nothing more, nothing less. The people answered that question and only that one by 51.9 vs. 48.1%
      All the other topics that people seem to assume were in the referendum question are each individual’s wishes/fears/hopes and clearly are matters for the Government and the Parliament to decide. After two months, I find ridiculous the number of commentators on this website who think they can nudge one way or another either Government or Parliament.
      Get a life, please! Haven’t you anything better to do?

    6. Sean
      September 7, 2016

      We elected the Conservative party at the election, who care if May wasn’t. You have to vote for a party it isn’t a one man/ wonan band.

  22. Richard1
    September 6, 2016

    are you one of the Brexit Tories described by Lord Ashdown as “brownshirts”? I hope not.

    1. Denis Cooper
      September 6, 2016

      That was a disgusting comment which he then tried to just laugh off. If some UKIP supporter made a similarly nauseating comment then we would never have heard the end of it from the self-righteous superior hypocrites in his party.

      September 6, 2016

      Lord Ashdown ( Paddy Ashdown ) sadly does not appear to be the person he was.
      It happens to the best of us with the passage of time. Only yesterday for instance, I discovered in some book that one of Bertie Wooster’s uncles had discovered long ago that beer was a food. In a fleeting moment I wondered how I could, am, the uncle of Bertie Wooster. Years ago, I would never have experienced such a moment however brief.

    3. James Matthews
      September 6, 2016

      Ashdown’s insult is no more or less than that. Vulgar abuse which has no basis in reality. The noble lord has clearly lost it (not just the referendum). No sensible person would take the slightest notice of his utterances.

      1. Bob
        September 6, 2016

        The Care in the Community approach to mental illness has been widely discredited.

        Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, says the closure of the asylums “required a far-reaching cultural change that has stalled and meant many needs currently go unmet’”.

  23. bigneil
    September 6, 2016

    I thought we would have had something to read on Ange’s wonderful election result.

  24. John Downes
    September 6, 2016

    There’s a VERY GOOD book that deals with the history of the English/Dutch spice wars of the 16th Century.

    1. Denis Cooper
      September 7, 2016

      If you mean the one I think you mean I actually read it recently.

  25. Elliot Kane
    September 6, 2016

    Fascinating insight into how the Dutch view their history. Thanks, John 🙂

  26. Anna
    September 6, 2016

    Timaction: The Prime Minister says that there will be some control over immigration. I think this is what the Leave campaign wanted, isn’t it? I don’t recall any prominent leaver saying anything more: they recognised that skilled workers, scientists and academics might well be needed to work here to our mutual advantage. The important thing, surely, is that we, not Brussels, will make the rules about who comes into our country.

  27. mike fowle
    September 6, 2016

    At the end of the second Dutch war, they invaded Felixstowe, where I now live. It was possibly the last invasion of England and there is to be a re-enactment next year of Darrell’s Day of July 1667. This is little known history, and until I read a book called The Lion of Sole Bay I knew little of the naval engagement off Southwold in the third Dutch war. It must have been interesting to see the Dutch view of events.

  28. peter davies
    September 6, 2016

    I bet those early adventurers would be rolling in their graves if they could see what is happening today, a single currency under German control, a Navy being subsumed by her German neighbours, a small army being bought under German command……..

  29. peter
    September 6, 2016

    Thanks for another update!

    The Rijksmuseum is impressive, but exhausting. I enjoyed Cornelis van Haarlem’s “Massacre of the Innocents”

    Somehow I felt the artist was more inspired by the male nude than the actual story!

    A very silly thing to do in Amsterdam is the Kattenkabinet – not a risquĂ© nightclub, but a gorgeous house (on the Herrengracht, no less!) that was left to the owner’s cats… http://www.kattenkabinet.nl/en

  30. lojolondon
    September 6, 2016

    John, I wondered if you had visited the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. I visited this museum in about 1999 – it was phenomenal – there were dozens of anchors and cannon between 100 and 500 years old arranged on the front lawn. Inside there was a fantastic celebration of British Naval power through the ages, with large sections dedicated to WW1 and 2. I loved the experience and heartily recommended the trip to everyone who came to visit England.
    Then I went again in about 2012. As a place of learning and entertainment, it has been totally destroyed. Almost no mention of either world war, except for a small section dedicated to the convoys to Russia. A fairly large section on “International Trade” A large self-flagellation section on “Britain’s role in the slave trade”. Barely any mention of warships, cannon, or any victories, and certainly no information of Britain’s Navy-driven domination of global politics and business. The entire museum has been greenwashed with total political correctness and I would recommend it to nobody.

  31. JohnF
    September 6, 2016


    Sorry to be off topic but I do have a question to which I’m quite keen to know the answer.

    It concerns your Brexit Action Plan and in particular point 2 (Trade)

    If we were to do as you suggested what realistically would happen? Would we simply default to WTO rules or would the EU specifically need to make a decision on the UK’s trading conditions. If it’s the latter would the decision need to be approved by all 27 members.


  32. Lindsay McDougall
    September 6, 2016

    This jogs my memory about English history in the second half of the 17th century, when the Stuart kings were in charge until the glorious revolution of 1688.

    Kipling wrote a poem entitled:
    The Dutch in the Medway (1664-72)

    The first verse is:
    If wars were won by feasting,
    Or victories by song,
    Or safety found in sleeping sound,
    How England would be strong!
    But honour and dominion,
    Are not maintained so.
    They’re only got by sword and shot,
    And this the Dutchmen know!

    And the last verse:
    No King will heed our warnings,
    No Court will pay our claims –
    Our King and Court for their disport
    Do sell the very Thames!
    For, now De Ruyter’s topsails
    Off naked Chatham show,
    We dare not meet him with our fleet –
    And this the Dutchmen know!

    This little escapade in a way gives the lie to the idea that we’ve never been invaded since 1066. We must be eternally grateful to the Dutch for helping us to get rid of the Stuart kings.

    Rudyard Kipling ‘The Complete Verse’ (ISBN 1 85626 009 7 (hardcover) and 1 85626 007 0 (paperback)) is well worth a read if you can get a copy; a mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous.

    If you want to read the contrary point of view, condemning the later Anglo-Dutch alliance, then read Swift’s ‘The conduct of the allies’. Swift, although a High Anglican, regarded the Stuarts as our rightful kings. He was a Tory politician until 1711, when the Tories were deposed and Swift was sent into exile. This we have to thank for the glory of ‘Gulliver’s travels’, published in 1726.

  33. Dennis
    September 6, 2016

    Immigration is important and doesn’t help the more important problem – the 60 million too many people already here. Where are the user friendly policies to address this?

    1. Dennis
      September 7, 2016

      Oh I said there were 60 million too many people in the UK -yes a mistake but the remaining would still be over 40 times the population of Iceland over 3 times that of Norway.

      Anyway I meant to say 50 million too many.

  34. The Active Citizen
    September 6, 2016

    A real pleasure to read the posts following your Dutch weekend JR. As MarkB observed, a refreshing diversion from the norm and I certainly hope you found it so in real life. Goodness knows you deserved a trip away.

    I’m actually glad you decided against the Anne Frank museum. In my opinion there are other sites relating to the holocaust and WWII which are more deserving of a visit.

    I hesitate to make a socio-political point after the mellow mood you put me in, but then art, history, literature, music and culture generally are all defined by the political landscape. You demonstrated this very eloquently in your two pieces.

    I wonder for how long a politician will be able to write about such things in his diary and have a readership who have reasonable knowledge of (and interest in) the subject matter? My experience from speaking to those of university age upwards indicates that for many years our schools have been churning out a population with very little knowledge of history.

    The concept of actual historical knowledge seems to be a stranger to the younger generation, supplanted by some bizarre ideas imposed on them by those who decide such things. This is then reinforced by our young people thinking that a quick look on Wikipedia will provide all they need to know.

    Here’s a quote from the DoE’s latest guidance on the teaching of GCSE history: “The study of the historic environment should focus on one particular site in its historical context. The study should examine the relationship between a place and historical events and developments. The focus of study may range in scale from, for example, a particular building or part of a building to a city or rural landscape/ setting. There is no requirement that students visit the site.” Hmmm….

    Let’s just hope that there will be many like me, put off history at school but who come to love it as the years pass, and who feel as I do that there will never be time to read and learn nearly enough.

    Anyway, I very much enjoyed your two Dutch pieces, thank you.

  35. Kevin
    September 6, 2016

    JR writes: “the peaceful invasion of Britain by Prince William of Orange, married to Mary Stuart. The British establishment welcomed them and switched allegiance to them so their arrival and assumption of the crown was uncontested.”

    I am not a historian and do not intend to get involved in a debate about the pros and cons of the so-called “Glorious Revolution”. As a contemporary patriotic British Catholic, however, I am inclined to read the above comment as history being written (or appealed to) by the victors.

    Furthermore, as a Brexiter, I am not inclined to look with favour on the precedent of an establishment transferring the British Crown to a non-English speaking ruler with the apparent purpose of disenfranchising my ancestors.

  36. Kevin
    September 6, 2016

    JR writes: “the peaceful invasion of Britain by Prince William of Orange, married to Mary Stuart. The British establishment welcomed them and switched allegiance to them so their arrival and assumption of the crown was uncontested.”

    I am not a historian and do not intend to get involved in a debate about the pros and cons of the so-called “Glorious Revolution”. As a contemporary patriotic British Catholic, however, I am inclined to view the above comment as history written (or appealed to) by the victors.

    Furthermore, as a Brexiter, I am not inclined to look with favour on the precedent of an establishment transferring the British Crown to a non-English speaking ruler with the apparent purpose of disenfranchising my ancestors.

  37. Ross Towes
    September 6, 2016

    I see the Dutch celebration of Waterloo rather differently. At the time, so far as the Dutch were concerned it was essentially a Dutch victory, as the Dutch crown prince had been one of Wellington’s corps commanders and had played up both his own role (limited, though not nearly enough, to getting his own men killed) and that of the Dutch troops in Wellington’s army, many of whom ran away or refused to fight, and many of whom were Belgians, considered themselves French, and in many cases had been fighting for Napoleon just over a year earlier.

    Waterloo, for the Dutch, meant the final defeat of France as a power and set the seal on their absorption of Belgium. Or so they thought; Belgium of course became independent 15 years later.

    Perhaps also the Dutch presence at the battle helped to expunge the complicity of the United Provinces in Napoleon’s sinister police-state.

  38. ChrisS
    September 6, 2016

    I commented yesterday that I saw no EU flags on the German side of the Rhine near Mulhouse over the weekend.

    When we crossed the river to visit the superb Schlumpf Collection, now the French National Automobile Museum, and the equally impressive SNCF National Railway Museum, just a mile or so away, we saw no EU flags on the French side. In fact the only occasion we say a ring of yellow stars at all was on both the French and German signs that told us we were entering the other country.

    Interesting, particularly to find no EU flags on the French side.

    Alsace Lorraine is an area that, prior to 1945, had changed hands frequently and one would have thought that if there was one place where the EU would be sung from the rooftops, it would be there. Apparently not !

    On a completely different subject :

    We allow cars to enter our country both unhindered and without any contribution for the upkeep of our roads. This is as is should be as we want to encourage tourism.

    However today we passed through Switzerland – for all of 110 minutes and 207km – and had to buy an annual Swiss Vignette costing €40 for the priviledge. It wasn’t even valid for a full 12 months, every 2016 Vignette runs out at the end of January !

    We then entered Austria and had to fork out a further €8.80 for their Vignette, valid for eight days, the shortest period it is possible to buy one for.

    It seems the only reason Germany hasn’t followed suit is because their plan has been declared discriminatory by the EU because German cars would be exempt. Just as well, as their proposed charge is based on emissions and would have cost me €130 pa !

    It seems to me that as more countries seek to impose charges on our motorists, when we are outside the EU, we should not allow this free access to go on. It would be poetic justice to put an identical reciprocal charge on cars from those countries that impose a charge on us but I guess that would be too complicated.

    A quick and easy method would be to add a flat rate, daily charge of, say, ÂŁ1.00-ÂŁ1.50, to every ferry or Eurotunnel car ticket. A single car ticket should carry the full annual charge unless there is proof of an alternative return crossing having been booked beforehand.

    The revenue raised might be relatively modest but it would be a just measure, extremely easy to do and cost almost nothing to collect.

  39. rose
    September 6, 2016

    Interesting that they gloss over the two world wars – if that is what you are saying. Is this in the spirit of seeing them, as the EU now dictates, as civil wars? And not wanting to show their French and German colleagues in a hostile light?

    Good, though, that they take pride in their golden age. I had feared they would be feeling guilty about it now and not wanting Dutch children to know about it.

  40. rose
    September 6, 2016

    Three things uniting Remainiacs at the moment: confusing paid up and enslaved membership of the single market with access to the single market; reiteration of accusations of “lies” during the campaign; and allegations of “splits”.

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