First Era of Liberty, 1650-1672 Second Era of Liberty, 1702-47

Absolutism (I) : William III., 1672-1702

Foreign Policy : In 1672, the Dutch Republic found itself at war with a coalition, consisting of France, England, Sweden and the bishops of Cologne and Münster (Dutch War of Louis XIV., Third Anglo-Dutch War). A French army of 120.000 invaded, passing through the Princebishopric of Liege. The French advanced, crossing the Rhine; a first line of defense along the IJssel could not be held; the invaders could only be stopped by flooding a stretch of land east of Holland (the Water Line). The cities of Arnhem, Utrecht and Nijmegen were occupied by the enemy; the city of Groningen besieged by troops in the pay of the Princebishop of Münster. The Dutch fleet, however, defeated the combined Anglo-French fleet at Kijkduin.
The coalition did not achieve any more military successes, and the Dutch Republic was joined by allies (the Emperor, Brandenburg, Spain). England signed the Peace of Westminster in 1674, Cologne signed a peace treaty soon afterward. In 1678, France signed the Treaty of Nijmegen. According to that treaty, France had to take back toll levies introduced under Colbert's Mercantilist policy, intended to hurt Dutch trade.
Under King Louis XIV., France established the Chambre de Reunion in 1680, which annexed territories belonging to the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation, especially in the Spanish Netherlands, which Spain again proved unable to defend. William III. of Orange now became active diplomatically, creating the Alliance of Emperor, Spain, Sweden and the Dutch Republic (directed against France) in 1681. In England, Catholic King James II. (since 1685) found the opposition to his rule stiffening, and in 1688 fled the country. His son-in-law, (protestant) William III. of Orange, was invited to cross over into England and crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey (the Glorious Revolution). With William's coronation in 1689, the Dutch Republic and England were combined in Personal Union (1689-1702). The Maritime Powers, thus united, found themselves in a costly, almost continuous state of war against France.
England entered the coalition against France, and in the War of the Grand Coalition (1688-1697) William III. was able to stop France's push for hegemony in Europe. The Treaty of Rijswijk (1697) restored France's annexions since 1682 to their rightful owners.
William III. died in 1702. During the latter years of his reign, he was preoccupied with foreign policy, and since 1688 he resided in England, thus unable to strengthen the position of the stadholder in the Dutch Republic, and to a certain extent neglecting the interests of the country.

Domestic Policy : Grand Pensionary of Holland Johan de Witt had, a few months earlier, reluctantly appointed William III. of Orange stadholder for life. There was bad blood between the House of Orange and the Regents of Holland; the French and English planned to turn the Dutch Republic into a monarchy, and to offer the crown to William III. The latter, however, vigorously took on the task of defending the country. Meanwhile, the relation between William III. and the Estates deteriorated. On August 20th 1672, Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelis were lynched by an Orangist mob. No attempt was made to arrest the culprits.
In 1675 the Estates General declared the position of Captain General of the army, presently held by William III., as hereditary in his family. Grand Pensionaries Gaspar Fagel (1672-1688) and Anthonie Heinsius (1689-1720) had good relations with William III.; Heinsius supported William III.'s successful quest for the English throne. William III.'s preoccupation with foreign policy and his residence in England left the administration of the Dutch Republic largely in the hands of Heinsius.

The Economy : The peace treaties ending the coalition war of 1672-1674/78 were, for the Dutch side, neutral respectively favourable. No territory was lost, and trade conditions, in the case of France, restored to pre-Mercantilist conditions. However, the defense had proven extremely costly. The Golden Age of the Dutch Republic was now definitively over. And France continued to pose a threat, not only to the Dutch Republic, but to the balance of powers in Europe.
The Dutch Republic, under William III., found herself in almost continuous warfare with France, a state which began in 1672 and ended only in 1715. This caused increased tax rates - the Dutch Republic, most notably the Province of Holland, already had the highest tax rates in Europe. The population of Holland peaked in c. 1680 with 883,000, and would decline during the 18th century; by contrast, the population of most other provinces (except Zeeland) continued to increase, albeit moderately.
During the 3rd Anglo-Dutch War the Dutch navy had proven victorious. After the war, the Dutch could no longer afford to keep their navy up to the standards of the time; in the 18th century the Dutch fleet would be no match for the British.
Csar Peter the Great of Russia visited the Dutch Republic incognito (1697/98), the Netherlands being an object of his study of modern society and economy.

Articles Rampjaar, Hollandse Oorlog, Negenjarige Oorlog, Hollandse Waterlinie, Johan de Witt, Wilem III. van Oranje-Nassau, Anthonie Heinsius, Gaspar Fagel, from Wikipedia Dutch edition
Dutch Republic History Site, bibliography, compiled at Univ. Leiden
Novel : Alexandre Dumas, The Black Tulip, from, begins in 1672
William of Orange (William III.), from Portraits of Faithful Saints, a Dutch Reformed publication
De belangrijkste gebeurtenissen uit de periode 1648-1702, from, detailed chronological list, in Dutch
Before and after the Nine Years War (1688-1697), an essay by Lennie
Biography of William III., from History of Flanders
Timetable of the Dutch Republic, 1555-1702, from Amsterdam 2.0
Dutch Wars : War of 1672-1678, from infoplease
Amsterdam in 1700, from Afdeling Vroegmoderne letterkunde, Univ. Utrecht, in Dutch
Timelines 1672, 1695, from Digitale Atlas Geschiedenis, in Dutch; not a geographic Atlas
DOCUMENTS Map : Netherlands in 1672, features area occupied by the enemy; from Museum voor Vaderlandse Geschiedenis, from Mees, Historische Atlas, 1865
Map of the Netherlands in 1702, from Gardiner's Atlas of English History, 1892 political map, shows provinces, omits Maastricht as Dutch
William Blathwayt Papers, from Marshall/Osborn Collection, Beinecke Library, Yale Univ.; Blathwayt was serving William III. as diplomat; detailed inventory of letters, mostly from 1692-1703
Dutch Medals, from Medal Web, Collection Benjamin Weiss
REFERENCES The Decline of the Dutch Republic, pp.271-273 in : John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe
H.P.H. Jansen, Kalendarium. Geschiedenis van de Lage Landen in Jaartallen (History of the Low Countries by Years), Utrecht : Prisma (1971) 4th edition 1979, in Dutch [G]
Maarten Prak, The Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century, Cambridge : UP 2005, KMLA Lib.Sign. 949.2 P898d
Jan de Vries and Ad van der Woude, The First Modern Economy. Success, Failure, and Perseverance of the Dutch Economy, 1500-1815, Cambridge : UP 1997, KMLA Lib.Sign. 330.9492 V982f

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First posted in 2000, last revised on May 15th 2006

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