A forgotten part of the cultural exchange between France and the Netherlands is the emigration of many Dutchmen to France in the 17th c. A retrospective.
The economic rise of Holland in the 17th c.
In the early 17th c., Spain and Portugal were the leading economic powers. But after 1620 the prosperity declined, and the South European position was taken by Western Europe [Bruijn 1980:141]. Not by France and England however, countries that were divided by internal squabbles, but by the Netherlands, more particular by the region Holland, and in Holland by Amsterdam and the district north of Amsterdam, the Zaan [Bruijn 1980:142]. The spectacular economic development was at the expense of other regions: about 1650 Amsterdam and the Zaan were responsible for two fifth of the entire Dutch trade [Bruijn 1980:144].
The region became Europe's staple market [Bruijn 1980:142], Amsterdam became the centre of the European trade and shipping [Bruijn 1980:144].
The supply and removal of goods was chiefly done by Dutch ships: in 1680 for 95%, in the late 18th c. for 75% [Klein 1979:165]. In 1650, c. 2.000 vessels sailed under Dutch flag [Bruijn 1980:138]; the Dutch merchant fleet was bigger than the French, English and Scottish together [Bruijn 1980:138]. In 1670 the Dutch tonnage was c. 568.000 ton, more than Spain, Portugal, France, England, Germany and Scotland together [Hart 1976:317]. The Dutch predominance lasted until the 1730's, when the English fleet outnumbered the Dutch [Klein 1979:210].
Flyboat in the port of Hoorn (Holland)
The Dutch ships were all built in Holland, for the greater part in Amsterdam and the Zaan. Already in the 16th c., Amsterdam had many shipyards [Wouda 1983:17]. In the early 17th c. also the Zaan started building ships [Wouda 1983:395], first small inland vessels, but from 1608 onwards also the big type which in Dutch was called fluit (literally "flute"), a flyboat. However, when Richelieu ordered three big ships in 1630 the papers mentioned it, from which we may conclude such a transaction was unusual [Wouda 1983:461]. Holland built many different types (an achievement which was copied by the English only after 1675) [Klein 1979:210]. Without exaggeration we may say Holland was the shipyard of Western Europe [Hart 1977:46, Wouda 1983:468]. Some figures: about 1650 Holland built c. 500 seaworthy ships, 250 to 350 of them were for Holland, the rest for other nations [Wouda 1983:462]. After 1650 England draw up to Holland, after 1700 also France [Wouda 1983:468]). Most of the vessels were built in the Zaan, where there was more room than in Amsterdam [Hart 1977:76], and the Zaan built a lot more for other countries than Amsterdam [Hart 1977:77].
In these ages, building of ships went together with carpentry, for wood constituted 60% of the cost price of a ship; by buying wood in bulk (in Germany, Norway, North Russia and the countries around the Baltic) Dutch shipbuilders purchased advantageously [Hart 1977:72]. Ships for voyages within Europe werd made of pine, as a result of which a ship did not serve long; 20 years was exceptional [Hart 1977:73].
The invention of the sawmill has been very important for the rise of the Zaan as a centre of shipbuilding; the bulk of the European wood was sawn there [Wouda 1983:464].
Sawmill in Monnikendam (Holland)
The policy of France with regard to the Netherlands and the Dutch
From 1568 to 1648 the Netherlands were at war with Spain. It is remarkable, that during this war the Seven United Dutch Provinces reached the zenith of their economic power: roughly the first half of the 17th c., Holland's Golden Age. King Henry IV of France, apprehensive of his southern neighbours, supported Holland financially; after his death in 1610 Richelieu and Mazarin continued this policy [Mathorez 1921 II:197-8].
From 1598 to 1683, and then from the early years of the 18th c., a lot of Dutch men lived and worked in France, and a smaller part of them stayed there. Jules Mathorez, a French historian: "King Henry IV and Colbert populated France with Dutchmen": Henry gave the French Protestants civil rights (Edict of Nantes, 1598), at the same time razing the barriers for Protestants from abroad, and Colbert furthered the commerce and industry by bringing in many Dutchmen [Mathorez 1921 II:vii].
It is impossible to enter at length into the Dutch activities in France and the ineluctable consequences for the French society; therefore I made a choice.
Mathorez [1921 II:vii]: the Dutchmen taught France to drain the marshes (as well as to navigate with ships). Flemish men did this work already in the Middle Ages, and for this reason it is not strange, even obvious, French borrowed the Dutch (Flemish) word dam = 'dike', 'dam to stop the water', the word from which the French game name jeu de dames = 'draughts' was derived. In the 17th c. workers from Flanders and Holland did the job, but they were accompanied by bankers and engineers. The French government was so glad with their work, that it granted a premium: after three years work in the marshes a Dutchman (Fleming) was naturalized free [Mathorez 1921 II:233-4]. Some regions were colonized to say so, said Mathorez, bore names like Petite Flandre or Polders de Hollande [Mathorez 1921 II:240].
About 1600, France was far from a seagoing nation: the shipping from and to the territory was in hands of the Hanseatic League, Spain, Portugal, and, for the greater part, Holland [Mathorez 1919I:99]. The Dutch had a legal monopoly of the transport of wine and brandy by boat [Mathorez 1919I:99,101]. In the 17th c. there were Dutchmen in any French (sea) port [Mathorez 1921 II:176].
In 1661, the Dutch ambassador in France reported that Dutch ships were responsible for two third of the total number of ship movements in France and outside France on behalf of the country. Figures: in 1651 419 Dutch vessels put in at the port of Bordeaux, against 83 French ships [Mathorez 1921 II:261. In 1660, there were about 20.000 ships in the whole world, and 16.000 of them were Dutch [Mathorez 1921 II:261]. The French export was almost entirely done by the Dutch [Mathorez 1921 II:262].
Model of a flyboat
17th c. flyboat
Naturally, French politicians looked upon the Dutch hegemony in the transport field with sorrow. Richelieu wanted to set up a French fleet, but the ports did not have enough capacity and there were no shipyards. The solution: French agents recruited employees in Holland [Mathorez 1921 II:210-1]. The immigration was mass; Le Havre, about 1610, for example intended to settle and naturalize 400 Dutch families [Mathorez 1921 II:212]. In this respect Colbert continued Richelieu's policy; he took care, for instance, for the wives of the Dutch shipwrights who were working in Rochefort and other ports[Mathorez 1921 II:107]. Most of them were from the region where the draughts variety on 100 squares was very popular: Amsterdam and the Zaan.
Industry, trade and commerce
Between 1600 and 1660, the number of Dutch merchants in France was enormous; under Colbert this number even increased [Martin 1899:32; Mathorez 1921 II:249-50]. In Nantes, for example, the square where Dutch businessmen gathered was called Petite Hollande [Mathorez 1921 II:253]. Many merchants travelled between France and Holland, for in this period half of the total French trade was oriented to the Dutch market (French valuation in 1646) [Mathorez 1921 II:248].
Autochthones of Nantes complained (in 1645), that Dutch people owned pubs, lodgings and cooperages [Sée 1926:247]. About 1650 the Dutch had their own quarter, which encouraged artisans from Holland to go to Nantes for a living [Sée 1926:248]. In Bordeaux the same Dutch dominance as in Nantes [Sée 1926:254]. Holland had built up such a stable system of agents and salesmen, that French were not able to compete [Sée 1926:252].
Colbert tried to break the Dutch hegemony by efforts to expand the French commerce. But ironically, he needed Dutchmen to attain his goal, and so he sent French agents to Holland to recruit Dutch workers for mills, factories and shipyards [Martin 1899:32; Mathorez 1921 II:264]. Nantes had in 1680 so many Dutch inhabitants, that the local authorities discussed on a sort of Dutch council [Mathorez 1921 II:287]. In Rouen in 1685, at least 500 Dutch people were registered; also Lyon and surroundings and Marseille had many Dutch residents [Mathorez 1921 II:290,292]. In 1666, Rochefort received 37 Dutch workers [Martin 1899:62].
Not only workers left Holland to settle in France, temporarily or not: Dutchmen also started mills and factories, among others refineries and paper factories [Mathorez 1919 I:99,101, 1921 II:242]. These activities caused again an inflow of Dutchmen, for the owners sent for Dutch workers [Mathorez 1921 II:243]. Paper was a major industry, also in the Netherlands, especially in the Zaan after 1674, when the number of paper mills increased strongly [Wouda 1983:317].
The position of Dutch people and the Dutch language in France
|In the 17th c., Holland's role in French economics was greater than the role of the French themselves. In 1632, Dutch people were given the same rights as autochthons, including the right to free trade [Mathorez 1921 II:199]. Measures like this roused envy of course, all the more since many Dutchmen were successful [Mathorez 1921 II:200]. Many Dutch people rose at the social scale; Mathorez consistently shows this process. From 1623 on Dutch Protestants living in Paris could attend divine services in Dutch. French commercial colleges and universities enrolled many Dutch students [Mathorez 1921 II:219]. In the early days of the 18th c., the municipal academy of Bordeaux gave Dutch classes [Mathorez 1921 II:310]. Conversely, the university of Leyden received French students; Holland is proud that none other than René Descartes learned Dutch [Mathorez 1921 II:216]. In the fields of art and culture the Dutch influence has been modest [Mathorez 1921 II:ix]. But nevertheless: between 1600 and 1660 Holland was the vogue; Dutch journals and papers were translated into French, French men and women wore Dutch clothes [Mathorez 1921 II:214-5].|
1685-1700: the relation France-Holland flagging
At the end of the 17th c. France revoked the Edict of Nantes, in the eyes of the French historian Germain Martin one of the most stupid measured ever taken [Martin 1899:202]. He gives many figures to illustrate the economic downturn. One example: in 1685 Lyon counted 18.000 businesses that made textiles, in 1698 only 4.000 [Martin 1899:207]. Between 1704 and 1709 many French people were famine-stricken or lived in great poverty [Martin 1899:353]. Only in 1750 a new prime began [Martin 1899:353].
Protestants, among which many Dutchmen, were not sure of their life, for Roman Catholics started a witch hunt against them [Mathorez 1921 II:293-5]. Many a Protestant feigned a conversion [Mathorez 1921 II:299,302]. King Louis XIV, who had listened to bad advisors, tried to repair the serious consequences by guaranteeing any Protestant free trade [Mathorez 1921 II:303].
The onrush of Dutchmen in France dwindled. But in the period 1700-1712 and after 1717 -in 1712-1713 there was a French-Dutch war, in 1717 a treaty- France received many Dutch people again [Mathorez 1921 II:176,306].
Polish draughts in France
France made acquaintance with Polish draughts after 1668 and before 1690. If the French learned the game directly from Dutch emigrants or Dutch workers/traders -a plausible assumption, considering the fact that many Dutch immigrants came from Amsterdam and environs, where the game was very popular- it seems reasonable to assume this happened in the years between 1670 en 1685.
The engraving left, made by a French artist about 1630, raises some questions. In the arts, the ape is the symbol of foolishness [Renger 1970:76,80,130], and as the beast is playing le jeu de dames, David undoubtedly played with the often occurring double sense of this French game name, suggesting the lady is far from chaste. Further, we may assume David considered draughts on the 100 squares board a foolish game. The lady wears Dutch clothes: did David draw a Dutch woman, living in France but holding on to foolish Dutch pursuits, or a French lady following the Dutch fashion and in David's eyes ridiculous?
Charles David (1600-1636)