A History of the Low Countries

Paul Arblaster

Palgrave 2012
A book review by Danny Yee © 2013 http://dannyreviews.com/
A History of the Low Countries has excellent coverage of the earlier period, with its mid-point falling in 1609. Covering two thousand years of a politically diverse region, the last thousand in some detail, it is necessarily a little skeletal, but Arblaster manages to put a little flesh on the bones.

The details are often fascinating but isolated: much of the complexities of inheritances and conflicts in the 1300s, for example, or the changing political parties and alliances in the post-1945 Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, passes by in a blur. As an aid to coping with this, Arblaster provides twenty five pages of chronologies, dynastic lists, and party and government lists.

As well as the central political history, Arblaster covers religion and social and economic history. He also touches on art, literature, music, technology and science, philosophy and so forth, where his treatment is necessarily scattered: so there are paragraphs on Rubens and Rembrandt and Spinoza and single sentences on Harry Mulisch and Hugo Claus.

On the larger scale, the survey conveys some idea of what made and makes the Low Countries exceptional, of their key role in the development of modern finance, religious tolerance, and so forth, and of how they fit into the broader history of the continent. (Some general background is provided with the ancient and medieval history for the reader unfamiliar with those periods, but the presentation will be most effective for those who already have a general grasp of European history.)

A few pages of "suggested further reading in English" are provided, though this consists of simple lists of works for each chapter, without annotation or commentary. A History of the Low Countries is not otherwise referenced, but it is scholarly in approach and better suited to students or others after a framework on which to build than to (say) tourists after an entertaining potted history.

March 2013

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%T A History of the Low Countries
%A Arblaster, Paul
%I Palgrave
%D 2012
%O paperback, 2nd edition, index
%G ISBN-13 9780230293106
%P 322pp