Gajus Scheltema and Heleen Westerhuijs (eds), Exploring Historic Dutch New York, (Museum of the City of New York and Dover Publications, 2011).

The NY400 celebrations in 2009 prompted Gajus Scheltema (then Consul-General of the Netherlands in New York, now ambassador to Pakistan) and Heleen Westerhuijs to compile a “travel guide” to the many remnants of the colony of New Netherland. The book is, first and foremost, a highly original and useful roadmap for those interested in visiting a number of Dutch sites across the Northeast. From Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, to the lower Hudson River valley, to Albany, Schenectady and Newburgh, and numerous places in New Jersey and even Delaware. Through private homes or farmhouses, churches or Dutch art collections in various museums, a lot more of colonial Dutch history was preserved than is commonly thought. And the influence of the 17th century Dutch immigrants on colonial society was felt well beyond 1664 when Petrus Stuyvesant surrendered the colony to the Brits. The book provides informative descriptions and photographs of some hundred sites along with exact addresses, telephone numbers, and opening times. A special treat is a number of first-class short essays written by well-known scholars of Dutch colonial history on topics such as the maps of New Netherland, Dutch paintings in the Metropolitan Museum, Dutch influences in the American kitchen, architecture in the Dutch colony, immigrants, slavery in New Netherland and Dutch words in the American vocabulary. Get ready for some fun weekend trips!.

Besamusca & Jaap Verheul (editors), Discovering the Dutch—On Culture and Society of the Netherlands, Emmeline, (Amsterdam University Press, 2010).

This book contains 20 essays by Dutch scholars on “traditions, structures and cultural institutions that are simply taken for granted by the locals [but] beg explanation to newcomers or outside observers”. The contrasts and contradictions in Dutch society often have discernible historical roots and most authors are quite successful in linking modern Dutch society to the seminal events or periods in Dutch history. The most densely populated country in the world, yet with plenty of windmills in pastoral surroundings. An economy typified by consensus decision making, but with a history of tolerating (or even fostering) dissent. And an acknowledged powerhouse in soccer that has yet to win the World Cup! If there is such a thing as “typical Dutch”, this book is a fine attempt to explain what it is. But the book also contains many practical insights.

Hendrik Willem van Loon, The Story of Mankind, originally published in 1921, re-issued by Cosimo Books.

The book was intended for children, and of course much of the science is hopelessly out of date, but this ambitious, even audacious attempt to offer an overview of the entirety of human history remains a breathtaking work today. A 1921 bestseller, The Story of Mankind won the first Newbery Medal in 1922. The book begins with the origin of life itself on our planet and the arrival of the earliest protohumans on the scene and ends with “The Last Fifty Years, Including Several Explanations and an Apology” and is abundant with an offbeat charm and packed with the author’s own beautiful illustrations and maps that are alive with a fresh, delectable humor. Dutch-American author and educator Hendrik Willem van Loon (1882–1944) sold more than six million books during his lifetime, including The Story of the Bible (1923), Tolerance (1925), and America (1927). After studies at Harvard, Cornell, and the University of Munich, he had a diverse career as a popular professor of European history at Cornell and of social sciences at Antioch College, an Associated Press correspondent in revolutionary Russia and World War I Belgium, and associate editor of the Baltimore Sun from 1923 to 1924. (See also Van Loon’s biography on the NAF Book List).

Theo Hermans (ed.), A Literary History of the Low Countries, (Camden House, 2009)

Twelve essays by prominent scholars of Dutch literature, edited by Theo Hermans, professor of Dutch and Comparative Literature at University College, London. The essays cover almost one thousand years of literature in the Low Countries (the current day Belgium and The Netherlands). From the Middle Ages, to the Dutch Revolt and Golden Age, to the pre- and post-war periods of the 20th century. Many of the major works of the 19th and 20th century –from literature on the Dutch East Indies, to titles by the post-WWII Dutch equivalents of the “Angry Young Men”, to many titles inspired by World War II — are discussed. Because many (if not most) of Dutch classics have been translated into English, this Literary History provides a first-rate road map to Dutch literature for the American –but also Dutch– reader.

Benjamin J. Kaplan, Divided by Faith: Religious Conflict and the Practice of Toleration in Early Modern Europe, (Harvard University Press, 2007).

As religious violence flares around the world, we are confronted with an acute dilemma: Can people coexist in peace when their basic beliefs are irreconcilable? Benjamin Kaplan responds by taking us back to early modern Europe, when the issue of religious toleration was no less pressing than it is today. Divided by Faith begins in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, when the unity of western Christendom was shattered, and takes us on a panoramic tour of Europe’s religious landscape over the next three centuries. Kaplan reveals the patterns of conflict and toleration among Christians, Jews, and Muslims across the continent, from the British Isles to Poland. He lays bare the complex realities of day-to-day interactions and calls into question the received wisdom that toleration underwent an evolutionary rise as Europe grew more “enlightened.” We are given vivid examples of the improvised arrangements that made peaceful coexistence possible, and shown how common folk contributed to toleration as significantly as did intellectuals and rulers. Bloodshed was prevented not by the high ideals of tolerance and individual rights upheld today, but by the pragmatism, charity, and social ties that continued to bind people divided by faith.

Fran Dunwell, The Hudson: America’s River, (Columbia University Press, 2008).

Frances F. Dunwell presents a rich portrait of the Hudson and of the visionary people whose deep relationship with the river inspires changes in American history and culture. Lavishly illustrated with color plates of Hudson River School paintings, period engravings, and glass plate photography, The Hudson captures the spirit of the river through the eyes of its many admirers. It shows the crucial role of the Hudson in the shaping of Manhattan and the rise of the Empire State and the trajectory of world trade and global politics as well as its influence on art and architecture, engineering and conservation.

David Winner, Brilliant Orange-The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer, (Overlook Press, 2002).

From the flap:” Brilliant Orange is a book about Dutch soccer that’s not really about soccer. It’s more about an enigmatic way of thinking peculiar to a people whose landscape is unrelentingly flat……If anything, Brilliant Orange is about Dutch space, and a people whose unique conception of it has led to some of the most enduring art, the weirdest architecture, and a bizarrely cerebral form, of soccer—Total Football—that led in 1974 to a World Cup finals match with arch-rival Germany….In the hot summer of 1975 Wim van Hanegem was offered the chance to leave his beloved Feyenoord and join the French club Olympique Marseille. He couldn’t decide what to do…So he turned to his dig: “We can’t decide. It’s up top you now. If you want to go to Marseille, bark or show me”. For several minutes the dog and Van Hanegem stared at each other. The dog didn’t move. “OK”, said Wim, “he doesn’t want to go. We’re staying”…..The cast stretches from anarchists and church painters to rabbis and skinheads to Holland’s beloved soccer players….”

Ted Spiegel (photos) and Reed Sparling (text), Hudson Valley Voyage—Through the Seasons, Through the Years, (Involvement Media, 2007).

From the flap: “Hudson Valley Voyage offers a rich exploration of the Hudson Valley’s awe-inspiring beauty and the last 400 years of its history. From fishermen netting springtime shad to a frosty, pumpkin-filled field, Ted Spiegel’s unforgettable photographs capture the valley’s four-season splendor”. Beautiful photographs, a number of historical essays, along with a detailed map of Hudson River area including location and addresses of (Dutch and non-Dutch) historic sites that can be visited. Don’t go sight-seeing along the Hudson without this book!

Colin White & Laurie Boucke, The UnDutchables, 7th edition, (White-Boucke Publishing, 2013).

For many visitors and ex-pats in the Netherlands, it may take a while to understand many strange habits and conventions of life amongst the Dutch. Fortunately, the authors of this book―Americans who lived in the Netherlands for some 22 years―painstakingly documented the often baffling contradictions of ordinary life in the Netherlands. Inexplicable customs (“beschuit met muisjes”, something like Dutch English muffins with baby mice), a country with countless rules and regulations where non-conformists are everywhere. Also, plenty of practical suggestions such as how to use some ingenuity to protest parking fines. The UnDutchables is quite helpful to ex-pats who may end up living in the Dutch “polderland” and who, years after returning home, may still be wondering who thought of goodies like “kinderbijslag” (government-funded child support) or “vakantiegeld” (a little extra from the boss to spend on vacation).

Benn Steil, The Battle of Bretton Woods, (Princeton University Press, 2013)

The 70th anniversary of the end of WWII has prompted a great number of historians to revisit the wars in Europe and the Pacific. Now, we finally have some popular histories on how the foundations of post-war prosperity came about. In July 1944, delegates of 44 allied nations convened at Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire to design a post-war trading and monetary system. Mindful of the pre-WWII currency wars and “beggar-thy-neighbor” trade policies, the Allies focused on stimulating post-war recovery and reconstruction through the reduction of trade barriers, free movement of capital, and a monetary system only indirectly anchored to gold. The delegates also agreed on mechanisms whereby individual countries could rely on collectively provided short-term adjustment mechanisms in case of balance-of-payments problems. Currencies were pegged to the U.S.dollar; and the U.S. dollar (convertible into gold) became the world’s dominant currency. Bretton Woods created the IMF, World Bank and the forerunner of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Marshall Plan followed in 1948. The strong post-war recovery and prosperity is testament to the foresight of the Allies at Bretton Woods. The U.S. delegation was led by Treasury Secretary Morgenthau; but his deputy Harry Dexter White and Great Britain’s John Maynard Keynes stole the show. The Dutch delegation, led by Jan Willem Beyen, was an active and prominent participant. Rising prosperity in Europe and Japan eventually caused the U.S. dollar to become overvalued. Twenty-seven years after Bretton Woods, President Richard Nixon suspended gold convertibility and currencies began to float. The books by Steil and Conway are first-rate accounts of the heavy negotiations between Keynes, then a true celebrity economist, and U.S. Treasury’s White, a previously unknown “technocrat” not known for his civil demeanor and diplomatic skills. (In 1948, shortly before his death, White was accused of spying for the Soviet Union). The United Kingdom, exhausted from the war years and its financial resources depleted, acquiesced to the U.S. dollar’s role as the de facto world currency. Both Steil and Conway do an excellent job in capturing the different visions pursued by Keynes and White. Steil’s narrative on the key economic issues is most interesting. Conway is best in capturing the atmosphere―most of the time very serious, sometimes not so—during those warm summer days in Northern New Hampshire. For those interested in the nitty gritty of the debates and closed-door negotiations, the Schuler/Rosenberg book is a true treasure trove. The Bretton Woods transcripts were accidentally discovered in 2010 by Schuler. They were never intended to be published, but for less than $50 one gets a first-hand, blow-by-blow account of the one of the most important events in modern times. Great trans-Atlantic history!

Ed Conway, The Summit: Bretton Woods, 1944: J.M. Keynes and the Reshaping of the Global Economy, (Pegasus Books, 2014).

A brilliant narrative history of the most colorful and important economic summit in history—held during the height of World War II. The idea of world leaders gathering in the midst of economic crisis has become all too familiar. But the meeting at Bretton Woods in 1944 was different. It was the only time countries from around the world have agreed to overhaul the structure of the international monetary system. Against all odds, they were successful. The system they set up presided over the longest, strongest and most stable period of growth the world economy has ever seen. Its demise some decades later was at least partly responsible for the periodic economic crises that culminated in the financial collapse of the 2000s. But what everyone has always assumed to be a dry economic conference was in fact replete with drama. The delegates spent half the time at each other’s throats and the other half drinking in the hotel bar. The Russians nearly capsized the entire project. The French threatened to walk out, repeatedly. All the while war in Europe raged on. At the very heart of the conference was the love-hate relationship between the Briton John Maynard Keynes, the greatest economist of his day, who suffered a heart attack at the conference itself and who was a true worldwide celebrity – and his American counterpart Harry Dexter White (later revealed to be passing information secretly to Russian spies). Both were intent on creating an economic settlement which would put right the wrongs of Versailles. Both were working to prevent another world war. But they were also working to defend their countries’ national interests. Drawing on a wealth of unpublished accounts, diaries and oral histories, this brilliant book describes the conference in stunning color and clarity. Bringing to life the characters, events and economics and written with exceptional verve and narrative pace, this is an extraordinary debut from a talented new historian. 16 pages of B&W photographs.

Kurt Schuler & Andrew Rosenberg (eds), The Bretton Woods Transcripts, (Center for Financial Stability, 2012).

The Bretton Woods Transcripts, edited by Center for Financial Stability Senior Fellow Kurt Schuler and Research Associate Andrew Rosenberg, offer a front row seat at the conference that shaped the international monetary system for nearly 70 years. The Bretton Woods transcripts were never intended for publication, and give an inside perspective of what participants at this major international gathering said behind closed doors. Schuler and Rosenberg spent more than a year carefully and skillfully editing never before published transcripts as well as creating summaries of meetings and participants that established the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and post-World War II international financial system. The transcripts reveal an untold story from World War II, as well as the vision of luminaries such as John Maynard Keynes, future presidents, prime ministers, and other world leaders. Despite a war still waging in 1944, delegates from 44 nations worked tirelessly in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire to construct a financial system that would promote growth, minimize global imbalances, and foster stability. The Bretton Woods Conference began a new era in international economic cooperation that continues today.

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