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The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall Paperback – 4 Jun 1998

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 1280 pages
  • Publisher: Clarendon Press; New Ed edition (4 Jun. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198207344
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198207344
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 5.8 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 239,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


This is a magnificent doorstop of a book ... As an account of what made possible one of the most dazzling "Golden Ages" in European history it is unlikely to be bettered. (Sunday Telegraph)

Israel has produced a classic ... Any scholar would be delighted to write a book of such learning, vigour and confidence. Very few indeed have done so, and no other has matched Israel on his topic. (THES)

About the Author

Jonathan Israel is Professor of Dutch History and Institutions at the University of London. He is the author of many well-respected books in European and particularly Dutch history.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Whatever the Dutch are, they're not nationalists. At Dutch schools there is relatively little attention paid to Dutch history in the 16th to 17th century. The result is that few Dutchmen knows much about this period in which the Dutch won their indepence, and went on become, small as their new nation was, a major European power. It had the largest standing army after Spain, it several times beat the mighty British navy at sea, its commercial fleet was larger than all other European merchant fleets put together. Its culture flowered and -so says the author of this book- can only be compared with the bloom of classic Athens around 500 BC. You don't have to believe me. Just read this book. It is easily the best history of this period, including local Dutch efforts. It might help British readers to have another look at one of their closest neighbours. And it might learn Dutchman something about their roots.
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Format: Paperback
When his book was published, Jonathan Israel was Professor of Dutch History at London University. His book has forty-four chapters, thirty-two monochrome plates, sixteen maps, and fifty-two tables. There are 1261 pages, of which the body of text occupies 1130. (It’s thus a heavy book to hold when reading!) Ignoring the fact that the narrative actually starts in the thirteenth century, the 1130 pages for the 330 years between 1477 (the death of Charles the Bold and the start of Habsburg rule) and 1806 (when Napoleon created the Kingdom of Holland) equates to 3.4 pages per year. (In fact Israel takes us to 1808 when Amsterdam’s town hall became Louis Napoleon’s royal palace and “The Dutch Republic was no more.” (Israel’s dramatic final six words.)

But the core of the book covers the hundred years between 1572 and 1672, a period that takes up 627 of the 1130 pages. Indeed, in his preface Israel says his aims are to set the Dutch Revolt and the Golden Age in a wider context: they “only begin to make sense if we place them in their full setting. This means going back to the Burgundian period, on the one hand, and forward to Napoleonic times, on the other.”

This is undoubtedly true, but gaps remain. For instance, while often demonstrating how the nation’s overseas trading system had shaped its “population distribution, urbanization, employment, prosperity, poverty, and urban vitality” Israel’s chronicle of the collapse of many Dutch industries in the eighteenth century leaves much unexplained. Whilst European rivals may have caught up, that would only explain relative not absolute decline. Israel gives hints – that investment and profits went abroad, into VOC shares and state bonds rather than into industry itself – but the collapse remains for me a mystery.
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Format: Paperback
Nothing is overlooked by the author in this great book about the rise and fall of the Dutch republic. A must-read for every historian who wants to know where the seed of liberalism and tolerance, that was planted during the American and French revolutions, came from.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Appreciate for your good handling.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars 16 reviews
94 of 99 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, learned but dull history 13 Feb. 2000
By R Boast/D Edmunds - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Professor Israel's book is the first volume in what is clearly intended to be a new series of definitive texts, Oxford University Press's History of Early Modern Europe. The book is certainly superbly produced (albeit a bit short of maps), and is packed with information on a fascinating subject. No doubt the Dutch achievement in the seventeenth century was amazing - after rebelling from Spain the Dutch turned themselves into a world power,became the freest and most advanced society in Europe (although Dutch freedom had its limits, as Professor Israel makes clear) and produced a galaxy of stunning artists - Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals etc. All this based on nothing but hard work and daring, and founded on a country that Dutchmen made themselves - "God made the world, but the Dutch made Holland", as they say. So a great subject, a magnificent looking book, and a first rate scholar who really knows his stuff and who has published a number of excellent books. And yet, it doesn't quite get there...I don't agree with those who say that this book is in the same league as Simon Schama's. I am a historian, but found the book very hard going. I think one problem was the author's obsessive focus on the internal rivalries of the Dutch provinces and towns. By the time the states of Friesland and the States of Zeeland and the States of Holland and the States-General had all fallen out with themselves yet again for the umpteenth time my eyes were starting to glaze over...I'm sure it's very important to understanding Dutch history but I felt the material on internal rivalries and jealousies needed to be shortened and the issues clarified for the non-specialist. As well as being overburdened with material on internal politics other aspects of the Dutch achievement were covered very sketchily. I was surprised for such a large book to have so little on the Dutch seaborne empire - Israel is mainly interested in the VOC as a factor in Dutch internal politics. There is one chapter on the overseas empire but it is not very detailed and Israel is clearly not especially interested in it. As a citizan of a country named, after all, after a Dutch province and whose first European discoverer was a Dutchman I was disappointed to see so little on the DUtch in North America, Brazil, Ceylon, South Africa and the East Indies. The book is essentially a detailed internal political history of the Seven Provinces in 1100 pages. I also would have liked to know more about art and literature. Perhaps the book basically reflects a tendency in modern European historical writing to focus on internal politics and European affairs and to minimise and downplay the European overseas empires. For a great world seapower like the Netherlands this seems very limiting. Older works on the Dutch empire by C R Boxer and others still remain essential reading.
56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but Interesting Book 27 Aug. 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a frustrating book to review. It is one of the worst-edited books I have read in a long time, yet it contains a wealth of intersting information. It is comprehensive and well-enough explained to interest a lay reader, but it is difficult to read beyond what is necessary given the dryness of the subject matter. First, the good: Israel presents almost a year-by-year discussion of Dutch politics, economics, and demographics. His presentation is highly detailed, generally offering his arguments first, then backing them up with substantial data. Israel has pulled together statistics of population growth, economic activity, and political positions in a wealth of tables. Finally, he defines his terms clearly, then uses them consistently. Now, the bad: This is one of the worst-edited books I can imagine. Israel's excessive use of commas in the most inappropriate places makes reading this work a chore. His meaning is obscured by the incorrect use of punctuation. In short, his editor should [have done a better editing job]. Second, the editing goes downhill toward the end of the book. Whereas the first 2/3 of the text clearly presents the major political events, then follows them with the appropriate economic, social, and demographic consequences, the latter part of the book reverses this presentation. This leaves the reader to infer major political events (like the French invasion of 1792-1794) from the discussion of demographics, economics, or social trends. A consequence of this decline in editing is that the explanation of why the Dutch republic declined is not presented clearly. If the reader pays close attention and has a good grounding in economics, he can understand what must have been going on behind the scenes. But the big story of the sudden decline of one of the major maritime powers in the world is not clearly told. Finally, Israel often uses text where a table would be more appropriate. He will take three pages to go through the voting record of each city in each province, rather than summarize the data in a table. The 1100 pages of the book could easily be reduced by several hundred without impacting the support of Israel's arguments and make the book much more readable in the process.
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for beginners 26 Jan. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I am afraid I have to disagree with my fellow readers. Israel's account of the rise and fall of the Dutch Republic is exhaustive and certainly impressive, but it is a difficult read. This book is for only those with a burning interest in the subject and a willingness to tolerate dry, academic prose.
I learned a lot, which was my goal, but not without some, in my judgment, unnecessary frustration. Too often, Israel assumes that the reader has a much deeper knowledge of the subject matter than I believe is warranted. He frequently makes use of terms and refers to historical characters that are not explained until much later in the text. The organization of the chapters within each section does not help. It would have been better, I think, to begin each section with an overview of political events and follow with broader commentary on Dutch society and religious development, for example. This way the reader could put the latter into the context of the former. Israel does this in his section, "The Early Golden Age", but not with "The Later Golden Age." The narrative flow suffers as a result. Someone more expert in Dutch history would not find this a problem, but if this is to be the definitive and most accessible account of the rise and fall of the Dutch Republic, as the professional critic suggests, then it is a serious flaw.
I have a bias towards maps. I think history books should include a lot of them. They help readers place events. This book could use more, but the real problem here is that the maps Oxford's editors did produce for Israel are of poor quality.
In short, this is a book for the serious student of Dutch history and not for those looking for a good, accessible introduction to the subject. Turn to Israel after reading a book that provides such an introduction.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Splendid 11 Aug. 2005
By R. J. Clines - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book truly is the difinitive work on Dutch history. The sheer volume and description of detail makes the book very informative. The vivid writing style and the subdivision of the chapters gives the reader the ability to speed through the book in addition to breaking down and digesting each main idea clearly. The maps, charts, and graphs are clear and give the reader an illustration to the detail of the text. Also, the explanation of the Dutch Republican government, which is anything but simple, was clear and precise. I plan on using this book in my classes for reference. A truly great book.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly, comprehensive 14 Dec. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Being a Dutchman myself, I am very pleased to have this book, which gives a very detailed and insightful account of the Dutch Republic, starting with the rise of Holland in the 13th century. Israel compares the dutch 'Golden Age' with similiar glorious periods in Florence and Athens. Indeed, the explosion of science, art and technology in the dutch Golden Age as depicted by Israel is amazing; the results are still visible today (especially in art; Rembrandt, Vermeer, ...). The comprehensive treatment in this book affords a view on the whole panorama of this exceptional period; the Fall in the 18th century, less pleasant, is also covered in detail, ending with the deaththrows of the republic after the French revolution.
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