HARPERPRESS £25 (406PP). ORDER FOR £22.50 (FREE P&P) FROM 0870 079 8897

Going Dutch, by Lisa Jardine

Revolution? A garden party

On 1 November 1688, inviolate England was invaded by a foreign power: 500 ships, 20,000 soldiers and a further 20,000 marines, and a prince named William of Orange, took the throne of England from the ruling king. The foreign power was Holland, and in this intriguing new book Lisa Jardine sets out to explain why nobody in England seemed to mind.

Why was William welcomed as if he were English? It was in part a triumph of propaganda; William had written a letter explaining his plans in lucid and intelligent terms. It was also a triumph of organisation; he had put the entire invasion force together in half a year. As well, there were swirling scandals around the king, James II, whose wife conveniently produced a healthy male heir after numerous stillbirths, an heir people said had been smuggled into the queen's bed in a warming pan. Prior to the birth, if that is what it was, everyone had expected William to be James's heir, including William himself.

Then William may have won English hearts by his passion for gardening, which led him to cut across St James's Park to inspect the layout on his way to his future palace. But Jardine shows in this learned and sophisticated cultural history that there were many other, subtler factors at work. For the preceding century, the English and Dutch had been engaged in a cultural and scientific exchange of artefacts, books and information which laid the foundations for English acceptance of William and his army.

The key figure in these exchanges was Constantijn Huygens, unknown in the 21st century. Jardine is determined to change that. Huygens, we learn, was a polymath with a full humanist education, expert on the viol, a fine art collector, and an amateur scientist fascinated by microscope and telescope. He sounds rather like Jardine herself. The term "great and good" might have been coined for him. He was also a political eminence grise who knew absolutely everyone.

Jardine has numerous beautifully researched tales to tell about the cultural exchanges which Huygens facilitated. We see Rubens and Dudley Carleton engaged in an exchange, a swap of "marbles" or statues for some of Rubens's canvases. The English Civil War prompted the Dutch to scour England for the collections of impecunious and exiled royalists, while those exiles brought more of their treasures to the Dutch market. We can see Rubens's astonishing painting of the head of Medusa, commended by the judicious Huygens for its combination of charm and terror.

Many paintings the Dutch bought after the war were by the Dutch painters whose entry into court circles had been eased by Huygens, notably Van Dyck. Other key figures, such as art agent and musician Nicholas Lanier, and Gaspar Duarte, the jeweller and diamond merchant, cemented trading bonds in art. Huygens knew them all. Huygens's wife, Susanna, had humanist qualifications hardly less extensive than his own. She corresponded with René Descartes, though she died tragically young before she could communicate to him her ideas on his Discourse.

For Jardine, the Dutch are not ashamed of their riches. Huygens himself is unembarrassed about his wealth, power and influence. He built a house that was a virtual palace, and proceeded to furnish it with everything that was luxurious and novel.

He was not atypical. The citizens of Antwerp, too, were enjoying boom years, and Huygens's friend and associate Duarte was also happy to build a big and impressive mansion. To Antwerp came the English eccentrics William and Margaret Cavendish, where they throve on the rich atmosphere. After the dust of the war had settled, they were among the English exiles who imported Dutch neoclassicism and even Dutch craftsmen to renovate their own estates.

They shared with Huygens and his people the sense that such estates and, above all, their gardens, were precarious refuges from the hurly-burly that sought to destroy them, though the English came to this sense of danger via the war and the Dutch via the ever-present menace of the encroaching waters. The poet Andrew Marvell called Holland "the indigested vomit of the sea", but Dutch expertise in land drainage had been used by England since the Thames flood of 1621. Dutchmen and Englishmen also communicated about science; debates about Hooke's discoveries and their significance were carried out across borders, with Huygens taking a key role in the discussion.

Commerce, too, was an occasion for rivalry and exchange, as the Dutch India companies contested their London rivals' expansion. Ultimately, the finest and most resonant result was the colonisation of Manhattan in what was New Amsterdam, now New York. Its magnificent architecture, art collections, and parks would have satisfied English and Dutch pioneers alike.

We tend to think of ourselves as shaped by France and by Italy, and to neglect our nearer neighbour across the Narrow Sea. Yet in the course of this important book, it becomes clear that what we are is the product of what the Dutch were. All the characteristics we think of as "English", from our love of neoclassical architecture through our passion for the empirical method to our mania for gardening, were shared with the Dutch, or bequeathed to us by them. Also acquired, rather less gloriously, were Dutch tax revenues and wealth that were carried to England by William and Mary, creating the basis for English wealth while sapping Dutch power and prestige. This explains why Jardine's subtitle says that England "plundered" Dutch glory, but she herself adds that matters were really more subtle than this. In Jardine's account, we all went Dutch long ago, and the time has come to say so and to retrace our cultural past to the brilliant and stalwart men and women of the Lowlands. This fascinating study will and should inspire further research into our Dutch heritage.

Diane Purkiss's 'The English Civil War: a people's history' is published by HarperPerennial

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine