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Books about the common roots of UK, US and Dutch societies

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In my previous post I promised to share two books I’m currently reading.

Recently, on occasion of their return to Texas, we offered a farewell dinner to an expat couple that had resided with us as long stay guests. They concluded their stay in The Netherlands of over three years with the observation that there are more similarities in character between Americans and Dutch that they would have believed. They also pointed me to a recent book of Russell Shorto, The Island at the Center of the World, that gives some background explanation.

It is an epic story about the discovery of New Amsterdam and it’s early years as a settlement of the Dutch West Indies Company (in Dutch Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie). The book is based on historic material kept under dust for ages, but popped up in Albany, New York, of all places. For over 25 years there sits a historian who is in the process of translating over 12,000 Dutch language documents dating back to the first half of the 17nd century. The Dutch were too tidy and destroyed most of their West India Company’s archives so it is a sort of wonder this new material popped up. It is known as The New Netherland Project or NNP. Do visit their site as they have a wealth of material!

I learned Englishman Henry Hudson discovered New Amsterdam on commission of the Dutch East India Company (VOC or Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie). On a former trip he had discovered Newfoundland on commission of the British Muscovy Company, in search of a northern passage to the India. He had hoped that via the rivers Hudson or Connecticut he could reach the great lakes and from there there was a passage to India.

Going Dutch by Lisa Jardine

When buying The Island at the Center of the World I stumbled on the book Going Dutch, How England Plundered Holland’s Glory by English writer Lisa Jardine.

Coincidentally Robbert Russo penned an insightful column for the New York Times Going Dutch about how an American looks at Dutch society.

Lisa uses the subtitle more as a eye catcher than as a flag covering her cargo: She describes the early 17nd century more from a view of an art historian. How thinkers, architects, landscape architects, sculptors and painters from the low countries influenced the English courts. How members of the Royalists party got refuge in The Hague during Cromwell’s reign and how the various European courts especially those who were not in the Roman Catholic league like the Spanish were related, intermingled and intermarried and tried to cooperate in their struggle against the Spanish. All up to the year 1688 when William and Mary took over the English throne.

It is really fun to read the two books together. If you’re interested in Dutch, US and/or UK history both books are a must read!

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