Skip to main content

About this book

An indispensable introductory textbook that provides students with a concise overview of the whole sweep of the history of the Low Countries, from Roman frontier provinces through to the establishment of the three constitutional monarchies of the present day.

This is an ideal core text for dedicated modules on History of the Low Countries, History of Luxembourg, Dutch History or Belgian History, or a supplementary text for broader modules on European History, which may be offered at all levels of an undergraduate History or European Studies degree. In addition it is a crucial resource for students who may be studying the history of the Benelux region for the first time as part of a taught postgraduate degree in European History, European Studies or Dutch Studies.

Table of Contents


Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are notoriously ‘artificial’ countries. Their borders correspond with little but the outcomes of by-gone diplomatic and military campaigns. The Benelux countries are what is left when France and Germany have taken all they can on either side, and nobody has managed to establish rule over the whole of the remainder. In the view of some, such as Charles de Gaulle, this made them an aberration, a left-over; in the eyes of their own nineteenth-century historians, it made them (pre)determined survivors. The area might best be described as a frontier region, as long as ‘frontier’ is taken not to mean a sharp border, but an area of interaction and overlap. It is not that the pulls of Paris and Berlin, or of Rome and Geneva, failed to reach the Low Countries, but rather that this is the zone where all such forces were felt but none completely overcame.
Paul Arblaster

3. The Low Countries United and Divided, 1384–1609

Over the course of the fifteenth century the dukes of Burgundy gradually established themselves as rulers of much of the Low Countries, a process of unification completed in the sixteenth century by the Habsburg emperor Charles V. Within a decade of Charles V’s death, this fragile composite state was torn apart into two hostile blocs, the Dutch Republic and the Habsburg Netherlands.
Paul Arblaster

5. The Rise and Fall of the Liberal Order, 1776–1914

The first cracks in the old regime were opened in Boston. British treatment of neutral shipping during the American Revolutionary War (1776–82) led to the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780–84). From a military point of view, it simply showed up how far the Republic had declined from its world-power status of the Golden Age. International finance reached new heights, most spectacularly with loans to the new USA and to Russia, but manufacturing was stagnant and trade was at a standstill. From 1780 to 1781 the Baltic carrying trade fell from over 2000 vessels to a mere 11.
Paul Arblaster
Additional information