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English travel writers’ representations of freedom in the United Provinces, c. 1670–1795

Mitchell, William H.F. (2023) English travel writers’ representations of freedom in the United Provinces, c. 1670–1795. Historical Journal, 66 (5). 971 - 989. ISSN 0018-246X

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S0018246X23000419


From the Second Anglo-Dutch War to the fall of the United Provinces (c. 1670–1795), dozens of English writers published accounts of their travels across the North Sea. The English and the Dutch were bound by centuries of intellectual, political, and cultural interaction. Factors like a shared confession and similar economic structures meant that Anglo-Dutch relations were uniquely intimate, and this close relationship allowed a nuanced and complex exploration of political ideas. This article recreates one of those ideas that was repeated so often in English travel writing: that the Dutch Republic was free. This freedom was presented as a Faustian pact. In practice, the Dutch state guaranteed many freedoms that the English lauded, such as the right to property, to government accountability, and to efficient justice. However, English writers disdained the theories that underpinned these freedoms, which were viewed as egalitarian and republican. It was argued that these suspect doctrines led the United Provinces down the path to licentiousness, luxury, and decline. Paradoxically, therefore, the nature of Dutch freedom determined both the country’s rise and its fall.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s)
Divisions: International History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2023 09:51
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2024 18:57

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