It is well known that the commercial and political decline of the United Provinces in the eighteenth century was discussed throughout Europe. The aim of this introductory article and this special issue on 'Dutch Decline in Eighteenth-Century Europe' at large is to take a first few steps towards developing a new understanding of these discussions. Rather than to attempt to provide an inventory of which foreign writers reflected on the Dutch case and analyse their judgements, the purpose of this introduction is to establish the nature of this interest in the light of the changing dynamics of interstate political and trade relations. Consisting of two parts (each divided in two sections), this introductory article is an attempt to bring together into the same frame, one, the concerns that moved major and lesser figures to discuss the Dutch case and, two, the wealth of economic history studies that have addressed the notion of Dutch decline. In order to eventually make these historiographies mutually productive, it is argued that the idea of 'intrinsic power' needs to be recognised not primarily as related to an idea of 'relative' (as opposed to 'absolute') decline, but in a slightly different fashion. The way in which Dutch political writers increasingly came to understand the predicament of their state and ultimately aligned themselves with their European counterparts was precisely through the concept of 'intrinsic power', understood as a comparative notion that referred to the ramifications of political shifts for the capacity of the Dutch Republic to maintain itself on the international scene.

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History of European Ideas
Department of Public Administration

Stapelbroek, K. (2010). Dutch decline as a European phenomenon. History of European Ideas, 36(2), 139–152. doi:10.1016/j.histeuroideas.2010.02.001