'Going Dutch' is elegant and thought-provoking

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(AP) "Going Dutch: How England Plundered Holland's Glory" (Harper. 432 pages. $35), by Lisa Jardine: In November 1688, Prince William of Orange, the elected leader of the Dutch republic, set sail from the port of Hellevoetsluis in command of a 450-ship invasion fleet bound for England.


(AP) "Going Dutch: How England Plundered Holland's Glory" (Harper. 432 pages. $35), by Lisa Jardine: In November 1688, Prince William of Orange, the elected leader of the Dutch republic, set sail from the port of Hellevoetsluis in command of a 450-ship invasion fleet bound for England.

William's 20,000 troops landed on the coast of Devon, marched to London and deposed King James II, who was allowed to flee to France after a brief period of captivity.

Coercing the approval of Parliament, William and his wife then usurped James' throne, assuming the roles of king and queen of England. Or, at least, that's one way to describe what happened.

This revisionist account of the Glorious Revolution — a watershed moment that's more often seen as a rejection of James' abusive rule by his own subjects — forms the centrepiece of London University professor Lisa Jardine's elegant and thought-provoking new book, "Going Dutch," a sweeping chronicle of the intellectual, political and cultural links forged between England and the Netherlands during the 17th century.

"Going Dutch" opens with a simple question: Why has the Dutch invasion of 1688 gone down in the history books as a popular English uprising?

"Why is there no trace of this mighty armada ... in conventional historical accounts of the so-called 'Glorious Revolution'?" Jardine asks. "Why are so few of us aware that at the time of the English Parliament's 'welcoming' of William ... the country was in the grip of a full-scale military occupation?"

One answer, as Jardine acknowledges, is that history is written by the victors, and King James II was most certainly one of history's losers.

By converting to Catholicism and asserting the monarchy's claim to absolute authority, he had alienated two key bases of support within his realm.

Disaffected notables in the Anglican Church and Parliament laid the groundwork for his ouster, secretly inviting William — a Protestant prince thoroughly acquainted with the idea of representative government — to invade the country.

From the perspective of these English conspirators, William of Orange had another important point in his favour: His wife was legally the next in line of succession if James were to vacate the throne, for she was none other than Mary Stuart, James' eldest daughter.

The complex dynastic links between the Houses of Stuart and Orange provide a starting point for Jardine's account of the interconnected nature of English and Dutch society in the period leading up to 1688.

Deftly tracing the movements of people and ideas in fields ranging from monetary policy to garden design, Jardine evokes a dialogue of civilizations in which attitudes on both sides of the Anglo-Dutch divide developed in tandem.

She argues that this pre-existing web of cultural exchange helped smooth over the abrupt transition from the reign of James to that of William and Mary, and made it seem, in hindsight, less like a foreign takeover than a purely internal English dispute.

But Jardine has a bigger and bolder agenda in "Going Dutch": She wants to change the very way that history is written.

Instead of the traditional nation-by-nation treatment, she proposes a more global view that embraces border crossings as a fact of life.

Drawing on her own roots as the grandchild of Polish immigrants, she sees the past much in the way that most of us experience the present — as a "kaleidoscope of colliding influences".

From this perspective, Jardine's granular examinations of specific moments in Anglo-Dutch relations are case studies in her larger world view.

At one moment, for example, she takes us deep into the life of Alexander Bruce, a founding member of England's Royal Society and co-inventor, with Dutch-born Christiaan Huygens, of a pendulum clock that could accurately report a ship's position at sea.

We learn about Bruce's marriage to a Dutch woman, his international lifestyle, and the intricate personal and professional networks that facilitated his collaboration with Huygens.

The next moment, we find ourselves immersed in Anglo-Dutch competition in the New World, competition unwittingly fostered by the navigational advances Bruce and Huygens had made possible.

In Jardine's view, the English and the Dutch developed a special affinity that not only brought the two cultures together but also disqualified other nations, to some extent, from participating in the conversation.

The English, for example, consciously emulated Dutch financial practices, which were generally acknowledged to be superior.

And as England's financial institutions grew increasingly similar to their counterparts in the Netherlands, both countries decreased their transactions with France.

The English and Dutch, Jardine suggests, became birds of a feather who flocked together.

Jardine is the daughter of Joseph Bronowski, the British mathematician and biologist, who hosted 1973's "The Ascent of Man," a 13-part BBC series that narrated the entire history of human civilization through the lens of specific advancements in science.

She has inherited some of her father's grand vision. The author of 17 books, including biographies of Christopher Wren, Francis Bacon and William the Silent, Jardine is well known in the field of 16th and 17th-century history.

Her far-reaching ambitions, however, can sometimes lead her to ponder ideas in one book that won't be fully developed until the next.

The subtitle of "Going Dutch," for example, is "How England Plundered Holland's Glory," but we learn only on page 357 that Jardine intends this phrase to refer to the declining cultural influence of the Netherlands and the rising influence of Great Britain during the 18th century.

This discussion, which lies somewhat beyond the scope and time frame of "Going Dutch," seems very much like a movie trailer for an upcoming sequel.

Jonathan Lopez is an art historian and the author of 'The Man Who Made Vermeers,' a biography of the art forger Han van Meegeren

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