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A Brahmin Goes Dutch: John Lothrop Motley And The Lessons Of Dutch History In Nineteenth-Century Boston

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Chapter Summary

It may seem curious that some of the most popular and influential works on Dutch history written in the nineteenth century were produced outside the Netherlands by an author with no Dutch ancestry or direct ties with the Low Countries. But if we examine Boston and New England's long historical relationship to the Netherlands and its colonies, as well as the equally lengthy tradition of historical writing in Boston, it will become clear why John Lothrop Motley, a Boston Brahmin, son of a family of merchants and clergymen typical of New England's ruling elite, turned to the history of the Dutch Republic for guidance in negotiating the changes his home city faced in the turbulence of mid-nineteenth-century America. Motley had seen the lessons of the Dutch Republic for his Boston birthplace as a tragedy capable of standing up to external oppression but defeated by internal division.

Keywords:America; Brahmin; Dutch history; John Lothrop Motley; nineteenth-century Boston



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