When people think ‘Dutch’ they tend to think: tulips, canals, prostitutes and weed, windmills, wooden shoes, cheese…. Very rarely does one think of the War. But War is exactly what forged the Dutch character.

So what is the Dutch Character? Obviously that depends on your perspective… One person’s concept of International is another person’s Unpatriotic.

Tolerance or Immoral

No-nonsense or Rude
Openness or Blunt

One concept that is universal accepted however is Industrious.

Holland (more properly the Netherlands) was founded on conflict. The Dukes of Burgundy and later the Habsburgs dominated and taxed the various peoples of the LowLands for centuries. In 1555, Charles of the Habsburg dynasty granted the Netherlands to his son, Philip II, king of Spain. It was under his rule in 1568 that the “Eighty Years War” for independence broke out. 80 years of blood, atrocities, desperation, denigration and destruction shaped the national identity of the Netherlands. And it made them no-nonse.

Relief of Leiden after the siege, 1574

Relief of Leiden after the siege, 1574

The hardships and losses of this long struggle forged the Dutch mindset into one of practicality. Things either work or they don’t and time is of the essence. Their adversary the English Admiral Sir Walter Raleigh later described them as ‘the most industrious people’. An early example of the this industriousness is demonstrated by the fact that during the 80 Year War the Dutch would sell war-supplies to their enemies, the Spanish, under the philosophy that if they didn’t, somebody else would. Better to have the money yourself to spend on stuff to kill more Spanish!

The sack of Antwerp by Spanish troops , 1576

The sack of Antwerp by Spanish troops , 1576

Considering it’s location surrounded by enemies, it’s small population and lack of natural resources it is almost inconceivable that The Netherlands went on to dominate global commerce during the second half of the 17th century. Their secret wasn’t War, but practicality.  A hegemonic conglomeration of Guilds were the cornerstone of a Republic where decisions were based on practicality instead of principle. Prosperity flowed into the Netherlands because Merchants were directly involved in government policy. If an idea profited society it stayed, if it cost society profit, it went away. Wealth also flowed in because of a universal tolerance for all people, ideas, and religion.

All levels of society (including the women) received a high level of education and citizens were expected to read, write and take part in local government. Every individual was encouraged to climb as far up the ladder as their skills could take them. Thus insuring the most industrious society.

It was likely the worlds first Capitalistic Socialism since the destruction of Tyre in 332 BC. And the children of Mars are still industriously going strong.

War-Dutch4

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