|The Awakening of Europe|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book III of the Story of the World series. Covers the reformation in Germany, the Netherlands, France, and England, as well as the settlement of colonies in America. The rise of England and the Netherlands as sea powers, and the corresponding fall of Spain, as well as the rise of Russia, Austria, and the German states are also presented. Ages 11-18 |
THE DUTCH AT SEA
"To navigate is necessary, to live is not."
—Motto of the Hanseatic League.
 THE Thirty Years' War was over. A general peace had been made, which included most of the nations of Europe.
Holland and Spain made peace, too, after long years of fighting, and the King of Spain admitted that Holland
was now free—no longer dependent on Spain.
The little country reclaimed from the sea had never been so great before. She made the most of her opportunity,
and soon rose to be foremost amid all the nations of Europe. Ever a sea-faring people, it was now to the sea
that they again turned. Commerce was almost as necessary to Holland as the religious liberty for which she had
fought so long. Since the days when the Beggars of the Sea had taken Brille, and the fireships of Antwerp had
helped in the defeat of the Spanish Armada, her sea-power had been rapidly growing. If England had formed an
East India Company, Holland had followed her quickly with a Dutch East India Company. And even before the death
of Sir Walter Raleigh her ships had outwitted those of England.
"The Hollanders send into France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy," he cried to his king, "with Baltic produce about
2000 merchant ships, and
 we have none. They traffic into every city and port around about this land with five or six hundred ships, and
we into three towns in their country with forty ships."
So the ships of Holland grew and multiplied; they were better and faster than the English; they had ousted the
Portuguese from their strong positions in the East. To carry on better their trade with India and the Spice
Islands, the Dutch had built themselves a town in the Island of Java. It was like a miniature Amsterdam, with
its busy dockyards, its crowded wharfs, its shaded canals, and its huge warehouses. Indeed it was built upon a
swamp and called after their old country, Batavia. It soon became the headquarters of the Dutch East India
Company, and is to-day the centre of the Dutch colonial empire.
Here, at Batavia, they shipped the spices which made their country so wealthy. It is hard to understand how
eagerly our forefathers loved these Eastern spices. Ginger, pepper, mace, nutmegs—these were always in great
demand, and at feasts in Europe a seat near the spice-box was the seat of honour.
The sale of these spices brought untold wealth into Holland, as they would let no one else sell them. So the
Dutch people bought nutmegs at 4d. per lb. in the East to sell them at 3s. per lb. in Europe. Pepper, which
cost 2 ½ d. per lb. out there, was sold at nearly 2s. elsewhere.
 Not only did they sail to the East, but also to the West. One day a Dutch admiral, Piet Hein, chased some
Spanish ships in the Atlantic. They were bringing home to Spain a rich cargo of silver from Mexico, all of
which Piet Hein captured.
"Piet Hein. Short is his name.
But great is his fame,
For the silver fleet he's ta'en,"
sang his countrymen as they stored their riches at Amsterdam.
All their riches and merchandise the Dutch stored at Amsterdam. There they built warehouses supported on piles
driven into the swampy soil, in which they stowed the treasures of the world, until Amsterdam was the most
famous city in Europe.
Not only was Holland teaching the rest of the world the value of the sea, but she was teaching them how to make
more of the land. As soon as peace had come to the country the people had begun to reclaim more land for
cultivation. They pumped and pumped till they had got a great piece of rich meadow-land from what had been a
vast shallow lake of water. The cattle grazing on this land became the finest in Europe; the produce of Dutch
dairies found a ready market in foreign countries.
Then, too, their market-gardens were better than any of their neighbours. They cultivated and exported potatoes
and turnips nearly a century before England. They discovered the use of clover and improved grasses for fodder.
 Keen as they were after profit to be obtained by trade, diligent in working out the resources of their country,
they were also distinguished in art, literature, and painting. They had their artists in Rembrandt and Vandyke,
their poet in Vondel.
Toward the end of the seventeenth century the Dutch were more famous by land and sea than any other nation in
Europe. They were also the first to colonise the Cape of Good Hope, on the site now occupied by Cape Town.
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