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The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall Paperback – 4 Jun 1998
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.