OUR KINSFOLK IN THE NETHERLANDS

ALWAYS CLOSELY ASSOCIATED WITH BRITAIN

By

R. Cox

THE Netherlands must, undoubtedly, contain a significant portion of the Israelite remnant still outside the Company of Nations. Support for this contention appeared some years ago in The Voice of the Netherlands, in which H. Posthurnus, a Dutch writer, pointed out that 'few people in either Britain or the Netherlands realise the age and intimacy of Anglo-Dutch retations.' During the last 2,000 years by social, political and economic movements the influence of the Netherlands on British development has been considerable.

Many British and Dutch people have a common ancestry from which they have inherited similar qualities. Their passionate love of liberty has made them the pioneers of modern democracy and religious toleration. 'Nations of shopkeepers' both, their genius for commerce built up the strength which finally broke the power of Louis XIV and Napoleon and stimulated the love of enterprise which has made them explorers and colonists in the world.

Before Caesar's conquest of Britain, there were Low Dutch people who had immigrated into Britain from Flanders, because of floods; the Frisians conducted most of Britain's import and export trade before the invasions of the AngloSaxons in the fifth and sixth centuries. In the eighth century, England was a centre of learning. Some missionaries, like Willibrod and Boniface, worked among the Frislans. Then in the ninth and tenth centuries, the learned people of England - Alcuin among them - were driven by the attacks of the Danes to the Continent. In the latter half of the tenth century, the foreign trade of London laid the foundations of its future commercial greatness. Because of its relations with the merchants of the Dutch towns of Tiel and Dordrecht - the greatest commercial centres of that time - England's prosperity increased.

Following the Norman Conquest, there came many Flemish weavers who had a large share in the development of England. Dutch immigrants started sheep-farming, which was to contribute so much to England's early greatness. The Flemish type of industrial organisation inspired the formation of the English guilds of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In the twelfth century Dutch merchants had their own private wharves in London and were members of the Guildhall. At the time of the Conquest, many Anglo-Saxon refugees settled in the Low Countries. Thomas a Becket escaped to Holland. Time and again Dutch soldiers have fought on English soil, where some of their descendants now are. In 1165, for example, Henry II fought the Welsh with Flemish and Brabant troops.

 

 

With Dutch help, England had, soon after the period of Edward I, become the chief wool-growing country in Europe and the services of the cloth manufacturers of the Netherlands were promised: "They shall feed on fat beef and mutton till nothing but fullness shall stint their stomachs." Again, thousands of weavers came over as instructors and assistants to the English. England at this time was still a farming country, and the capital and enterprise of the Dutch were also courted, with the result that such artisans as linen-weavers, feltmakers and clock makers were introduced. Dutch printing presses became famous at an early date.

The first complete English Bible came from Holland, and Caxton learned his trade in the Netherlands. Many English writers like Wyclif, Chaucer and Thornas More spent some time in Holland and many of their countrymen took refuge in the Netherlands during the Wars of the Roses. The closest relations between England and the Dutch existed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. England was still short of all sorts of manufactures and most of the trade was in Dutch hands; even English fish-markets were supplied by Dutch fishermen. All this stimulated a close contact with Dutch methods, institutions and industries.

Intense Dutch immigration prepared the way for a Dutch prince on the British throne and for a large part England owes its subsequent prosperity to the effect of religious persecutors in the Netherlands. In 1527, when England's population numbered 5,000,000, London alone had 15,000 Flemings. In 1562, 40,000 more arrived and as many in the following years. On the other hand, royal action against the Plymouth Brethren drove English Protestants to Holland; but Cromwell again sent for Dutch divines as teachers. Thousands of English Protestants were to help the Dutch in their fight with the Spaniards, and English religious separatists went to Leyden and some sailed from there with the Mayflower to found New England. The Quakers, like many other sects, were products of Dutch sectarianism. William Penn's wife and mother were Dutch.

Dutch gunsmiths, tapestry-makers, glaziers, printers and especially skilled drainage workers brought many new arts. Dutch engineers helped to drain the fens of Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and many other counties - one Dutch engineer alone reclaimed about 400,000 acres. Dutch immigrants helped to develop Manchester and the cotton industry; Newcastle and the manufacture of steel; and Sheffield, where they introduced knife-making. Dutch feltmakers laid the foundation of the hat industry; Dutchmen made the cables and cordage for the Royal Navy; they introduced paper, soap, saltpetre, silk and lace-making. They took to England that most important commodity - tea!

How the Dutch were influenced by English culture we can understand when we remember that among the English writers who lived in Holland were such outstanding people as Thomas Eliot, Thomas Wyatt, John Locke, Marlowe, Raleigh, Cartwright and Ben Jonson. Butler and John Payne took their theatre cornpany over to Leyden in 1636.

Stalwart, pioneering Dutch folk have, in their scores of thousands, moved to the overseas countries of the English speaking Family of Nations. They have always proved a worthy, stabilising force in these new lands.

In 1688, Williarn of Orange was invited to England 'to restore English liberty and to protect the Protestant religion.' And after the death of William, close literary relations existed between the two countries. Bearing in mind this long cultural interaction between England and the Netherlands, there is no doubt that the Dutch have felt themselves to be something more than mere allies of Britain in their struggle against evil.

One further point of supreme interest is that Salic Law - a Continental law which excludes females from dynastic succession does not operate in the Netherlands where, as in England, a queen may reign in her own right. Thus both countries observe the Zelophehad law of ancient Israel, whereby a woman may sit on the throne where there is no male heir.

The National flag of the Netherlands carries three horizontal bands of red, white and blue. The Dutch arms have also a significant affinity with the Royal arms of Britain.

Courtesy: Wake Up!


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