03 - Dutch and British Exceptionalism

03 - Dutch and British Exceptionalism

Recording date: 28/10/2009
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Several reasons can be found to explain why Great Britain and the Netherlands did not follow the other major European powers of the seventeenth century in adopting absolutist rule. Chief among these were the presence of a relatively large middle class, with a vested interest in preserving independence from centralized authority, and national traditions of resistance dating from the English Civil War and the Dutch war for independence from Spain, respectively. In both countries anti-absolutism formed part of a sense of national identity, and was linked to popular anti-Catholicism. The officially Protestant Dutch, in particular, had a culture of decentralized mercantile activity far removed from the militarism and excess associated with the courts of Louis XIV and Frederick the Great.

John Merriman


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