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GoDutch book table a rich community resource on Dutch history

Tell it to the next generation and let books help you

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

Readers of the Windmill Herald often expressed amazement about little known facets of the history of the Netherlands, its people and their achievements, and, yes, about their foibles too. There are many aspects of Dutch history that have been obscured for one reason or other. Our online book table (a catalogue may be a better description), offers a wide ranging selection of interesting volumes:

To broaden one’s view of their own roots and identity, some will look to outsiders for an opinion, which is what Kees van Strien did when he complied his book Touring the Low Countries, Accounts of British Travellers, 1660 – 1720, an anthology of approximately forty travel documents by British tourists - journals, letters, and financial accounts - most of them published in this book for the first time. The British regarded the United Provinces (1568-1795, the predecessor of modern the Netherlands) and the Spanish Netherlands, with all the variety of their contrasting cultural climates, as an ideal destination for a short trip abroad. What did these visitors see and what did they report? Anyone wanting an insight into what their own Dutch ancestors may have seen, how they may have traveled around in a country still lacking infrastructure, will gain context for family history and for genealogical research in the Netherlands. These writings sometimes offered shielded criticism of their own country. Sir John Percival, for one, had praised for Dutch cleanliness and for the fact few beggars were to be seen in Holland, a hint perhaps that he had concerns about a “filthy London full of mendicants”. Hardcover, 480 pages, illustrated, $24.95;

Traveler Paul Zumthor in his book Daily Life in Rembrandt’s Holland engagingly presents a rich picture of a dynamic Dutch society that had torn itself away from its mediocre past to pursue an overseas empire that led to great financial wealth and a highly sophisticated cultivation of the arts. This classic work was first translated from the French language in 1963. He describes the political organization of Dutch jurisdictions, with Amsterdam representing itself as a miniature republic and the State General at The Hague as little more than a conference of ambassadors from the provinces where diplomacy, trickery and haggling had more currency than discussion. He also notes that “only Friesland and Groningen gave the peasants a voice in council observations…” A section describes how the Dutch collected and delivered mail, called an exceedingly profitable activity on which Amsterdam spent about 168,000 guilders a year in the 1660s. The book will be very useful for anyone wishing more insight into Dutch family history for genealogical research. Paperback, 375 pages, $29.95;

For many among us it remains a mystery, especially after a visit to the Netherlands, why their parents and or grandparents left that country so soon after WWII. The largely pictorial book Verstoorde Vrede, Foto’s van Nederland tijdens de Eerste Wereldoorlog may offer its readers some clues when trying to answer that question. It is often assumed that the aftermath of World War II prompted people to immigrate. However, many parents also had memories of the times of WWI. This book clearly shows that neutrality during WWI, was not at all a picnic for the Dutch. While the Netherlands remained neutral during the WWI it did not enjoy peace. Both warring camps attempted to draw the Dutch into the conflict, although each benefited from its neutrality in various ways. The Dutch regularly withstood Allied and German threats, lost dozens of torpedoed ships, suffered shortages through economic blockades, faced demonstrations and internal strife, harboured close to a million Belgian refugees as well as Allied and German deserters, and experienced a high mortality rate among children. Not a pretty picture. In about 300 photographs this volume provides an in-depth overview of this armed neutrality era when Dutch troops were mobilized throughout and the country housed various refugee camps. Were war-weary immigrants envisioning a third conflict (now with the Soviets) when they pulled up stakes? Paperback, 160 pages, illustrated with 300 photographs, Dutch language, special import, $27.95;

Dutch skies were the Allied aerial highway to Germany. Civilians on the ground lived in constant fear and apprehension of the outcome of the battles high up in the air. Thousands of planes were downed over Dutch territory. John Meurs was a nine-year-old boy when an American B-17 bomber crashed behind his house near the town of Apeldoorn, one Sunday in November 1944. John grew up wondering about what had happened that day before the crash and eventually researched the history of that plane, one of the 34 which did not return to the Mighty Eight. In his book Not Home For Christmas, A day in the life of the Mighty Eighth Meurs takes his readers along on his journey. He collected the personal stories of the veterans who survived the crashes that day, from families of the lost crew members, and from witnesses of the crashes. These first-hand recollections, captured in this book, provide a compelling and terrifying account of the reality of war. This book ought to be seen as representative for all the other Allied aircraft downed over the Netherlands, many of which remain buried in the country’s soil. Paperback, 544 pages, Illustrated, $29.95;

For over two centuries, Dutch merchants were the only Europeans with a trading post in Japan. By the mid 1800s, they counseled the Japanese to allow freer access to the Japanese market. Louis van Gasteren’s book In een Japanse stroomversnelling, Berichten van Nederlandse watermannen (1872-1903) details the work of seven Dutch hydraulic engineers and four bricklayers/wickerworkers who in the 1870s built harbours and turned rivers into navigable waterways in Japan. In their reports, they lift the veil on Japanese societal matters and values, which differed significantly from those of the Dutch. Their diaries, letters and correspondence, are all sources for this book which was published in conjunction with the fairly recent quadric-centennial of Dutch-Japanese trade relations. In Japan, there are numerous places named after these Dutch ‘watermen’ and whose contributions and names are recorded in Japanese history books while they largely unknown in the Netherlands. Paperback, 560 pages, large format, illustrated, map, Dutch language, special import, $39.95;

Equally obscure is the story of Dutch traders (and their families) in Russia. It should not be because knowing their history helps to understand Russia’s approach to political and economic policies today. Author Jan Willem Veluwenkamp’s book Archangel, Nederlandse ondernemers in Rusland, 1550-1785 shows how these traders covered vast distances in pursuit of profitable deals, and how seventeenth-century Dutch merchants, for instance, then already bypassed Amsterdam to ship their Russian products straight to Italian markets. The book also reveals how entrepreneurs passed their trading houses on to the next generation, the extent of reliance on family connections, their deal making with the Czar, their attempts to minimize losses, and the shifts in commodities and markets. The book also surveys the social aspects of life in such places as Moscow where the Dutch often played a crucial role in the political emergence of Russia on Europe’s stage, an amazing story. This is a must-have book for those wanting to know more about the backdrop of the seventeenth-century Golden Age in the Netherlands. Paperback, 271 pages, Illustrations, bibliography, maps, genealogical charts, index, Dutch language. Special import, $29.95;

People from Korea generally know exactly the name of the first European who landed in their country in 1653, next year 360 years ago. They even acknowledged him with a statue, while his fame in the Netherlands faded from memory once his memoirs were out of print. Ask them about Gorinchem-born Hendrik Hamel, whose ship Sperwer of the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) ran on the rocks off a remote Korean island. The story of Hamel and 35 crew members is told in the book, Hamel's World, A Dutch-Korean Encounter in the Seventeenth Century (Walraven, Boudewijn, Roeper, V. D., Buys, Jean-Paul, Hamel, Hendrik). The men, who survived their ordeal, were in effect the captives of Korea’s ruler although they received food and housing and a certain amount of freedom. After 13 years in captivity eight of them escaped for Japan in a small, barely seaworthy boat. Hendrik Hamel, who is also seen as the first Christian to reach Korea, published the adventures of Sperwer’s crew in a widely-read book. Paperback, 192 pages, illustrated, special import, $29.95;

Dutch people heading for Iowa in the late 1840s had something more on their minds than trading and wealth. They sought religious freedom from officialdom’s hostility and obstruction in Pella, a place of refuge on newly created Iowa’s frontier and prairie. Although edited by university librarian Johan Stellingwerff, the book Iowa Letters, Dutch Immigrants on the American Frontier was basically written by average emigrants whose letters had survived for scrutiny and republication. This captivating and very unique collection of 215 letters represents three distinct series, and has been gathered from sources on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The missives report family and church news, economic and political conditions, and the joys and sorrows of everyday life. At a deeper level, they portray the innermost feelings and faith struggles of the devout Netherlanders as they sought to understand the will of God in the face of their hardships, at ’home’ or in America. The book has its unexpected twists and turns. There are the typical “bacon letters” written to persuade family and friends to come over; the lure of land speculation by a novice land surveyor; and the bitter disappointment of a fresh immigrant who warned compatriots in pointed letters not to repeat his mistakes and to stay at home. Hardcover with jacket, 701 pages, illustrated, bibliography, notes and an index, $49.95;

The book The Reformed Church in Dutch Brazil (1630-1654) by Dr. F.L. Schalkwijk describes the brief 17th century history of the Reformed Church in Latin America. After a general introduction, the author analyzes the church as to her organization, her position as a state-church, her servants, and her work. He also reviews her relations with Jews, Roman Catholics, and Africans, and describes extensively the mission work among the Indians. Much attention is given to the question of religious liberty, especially in relation to (Portuguese) Roman Catholics. The original Portuguese version became a bestseller in Brazil. Paperback, 356 pages, Illustrated, dissertation with index and bibliography, $32.95;

The United Republic of the Dutch provinces, then fairly independent jurisdictions, made contacts in every corner of the globe upon which they built their economic structure. Many of the centuries-old relations are still traceable today: in museums and archives, in open fields or in cities, in historic images. The book, Footsteps and fingerprints, The legacy of a shared history by Cees Jan Van Golen provides an overview of Dutch heritage traces in Brazil, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Russia, Sri Lanka, Surinam and South Africa that have survived till today. A number of top heritage sites are examined more closely in this book including: The station Tandjung Priuk in Jakarta, the Dutch Reformed Church in Sint-Petersburg as well as the Avondster in Sri Lanka. Paperback, 144 pages, Enhanced with 100 illustrations, Special import, $33.95;

Instead of exploring beyond distant horizons, many spend great efforts digging up roots, their own. In the Netherlands, some well-known personalities joined those searches, cameras in tow. Bureau voor Genealogie's director Rob van Drie compiled this book Stamboom Boek, Verborgen verleden, to help the public on its way into such research. Anyone in North America with a family tree that extends into Dutch territory may find this book helpful. As this book details, family history research can take Netherlanders quickly beyond Dutch borders, heightening the sense of exploring the unknown and mining sources in foreign language records. Hardcover, 192 pages, 80 illustrations, Dutch language, special import, $34.95.

Then there are those who returned to the Netherlands after exile and even deportation. Among those was Queen Wilhelmina who crossed "de meelstreep" on March 13, 1945, when she entered the Netherlands from exile at the Zeeuws-Vlaanderen town of Eede. The "meelstreep" marked the border to which the title refers, the imaginary line for all those who re-entered the Netherlands from a German concentration camp. As former prisoners returned home from their ordeal, they were met by seemingly uncaring officials who went about their work according to the book, frequently offering little or no sympathy for these documentation-less victims of a brutal Nazi occupation. In his book De Meelstreep, Terugkeer en opvang na de Tweede Wereldoorlog author Martin Bossenbroek examined an overwhelming amount of information, classified policy directives and confidential reports, revealing documents and gripping testimonies about personal losses, psychological confusion, injustice and a surprising lack of empathy. The book reveals a deep rift in postwar Dutch society, also a reason for many to immigrate. Those being evacuated from the Dutch East Indies fared no better, officialdom simply showed little or no empathy for anyone. Hardcover, 687 pages, Bibliography, notes, register, Dutch language, special import, $34.95;

So far, not much has been written about the rise of the Christian school movement among Dutch immigrants. Retired principal John Harris (phonetically close to the original Heeres) offers his personal recollections in Prairie Christian Schools, an eventful journey, noting that Reformed Christian immigrants who pioneered Christian education, frequently started schools even before they had purchased a home. In his book, the author particularly focuses on his experiences during those early years when he taught in Edmonton, Winnipeg, Lethbridge, Ottawa and Regina. As he reviews his time in those cities – particularly as a teacher and founding principal in his hometown of Winnipeg – he names numerous students and teachers by name. Anyone who remembers teacher John Harris or is interested in the practical side of the early decades of Christian education in Canada will want this book. Paperback, 115 pages, $19.95;