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Introduction: "The First Republic Of Europe"

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Chapter Summary

This introductory chapter looks at the republican identity of the Dutch all shared. The nature of this identity may be clarified by a discussion of the way in which the eighteenth-century Dutch compared their political life with that of other European countries. It may, however, also be approached through the commentaries of contemporary foreign observers on the salient characteristics of the Dutch Republic and its inhabitants. The early years of the Batavian Republic subsequently offered the fascinating spectacle of old republicans trying to create a new republic. After endless theoretical debates they succeeded in doing so. The first decade of the nineteenth century witnessed the collapse of Dutch republicanism under the combined pressures of internal political exhaustion and French political power. What all eighteenth-century Dutch republicans had so deeply dreaded thus became an inescapable fact: the “first Republic of Europe” had been reduced to “a pathetic little Monarchical Country”.

Keywords: Batavian Republic; eighteenth-century Dutch; first Republic of Europe; French political power; republican identity



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