Now that people in the Netherlands are so deeply involved with the question of what it means to be Dutch and seem to be going through a collective identity crisis, it is enlightening to see how the Dutch saw themselves in bygone centuries and how foreigners – in this case the English – regarded them: everything from blunt, cruel and given to drinking to industrious, hard-working and thrifty. The reverse was true for people in the Netherlands – and elsewhere – who saw the English as arrogant and xenophobic islanders. The travel diaries and reports written by Englishmen and Dutchmen who crossed the North Sea for business or sightseeing, provide an interesting picture of the way they thought about each other.
In our time, with travel knowing no boundaries, one can hardly imagine how special a journey abroad was for people in the past. It was often a once- in-a-lifetime opportunity and many travellers kept a diary or made notes which they worked up later on. For young men, accompanying a nobleman on his travels abroad was a step towards one’s own political career. Their report of such a journey often contained few personal impressions, focusing instead on descriptions of the country and its inhabitants, form of government and similar matters.
Many more Englishmen visited the Netherlands than the other way round. Therefore, it is not surprising that this collection includes more travel reports from Englishmen travelling to the Netherlands than from Dutch people visiting England.
Read more about what the English and the Dutch thought and think of each other:
> Creation of an image
> Dutchmen in England
> Owen Felltham’s blueprint for the stereotype Dutchman