Published online by Cambridge University Press: 29 September 2020
Dutch overseas expansion in the seventeenth century is a difficult phenomenon for a modern political scientist to explain. In terms of their administrative structure, the long string of Dutch settlements along the coasts of Asia, Africa and America was something between a trading diaspora and an empire. Certainly, Dutch contemporaries themselves neither regarded it as an empire, nor did they feel any sympathies for the very idea of empire. Had they not succeeded in repelling such an empire in a tremendously bloody uprising lasting a staggering eighty years? Their rebellion had been against an imperial tyrant who rode roughshod over their traditional privileges and freedoms. Or, as the present-day Dutch national anthem has it: the Spanish-Habsburg Empire was a ‘tyranny that had to be driven out’.