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
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution