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Lecture | CMGI Brown Bag Seminar

Between Power Politics and Maritime Trade. Dutch-Swedish Commercial Diplomacy 1675-1697

Monday 4 November 2019
CMGI Brown Bag Seminars 2019-2020
Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
2.60 (Conference Room)

During the recent years, the field of diplomatic history has witnessed a methodological reappraisal. The studies, often labelled as new diplomatic history, have widened the research field to include elements, which have been at the margins in traditional approaches. For instance, early modern diplomatic history has seen the rise of anthropologically oriented studies as well as expanding the focus on multifaceted nature of the diplomatic representation, including variety of agencies involved in foreign relation such as merchants and non-state actors.

The importance of the Dutch Baltic trade for the economy of the Republic, “the mother of all trades”, has been extensively analyzed in the maritime history. There is, nevertheless, only scant research on the links between the Baltic trade, commercial policies and grass root level of diplomacy; traditional scholarship has mainly focused on the high diplomacy and treaty making. By drawing upon the methodology of new diplomatic history the ongoing dissertation project examines the Dutch-Swedish relations with an indepth analyzes on the connections between the Dutch Baltic traders and the different levels of Dutch-Scandinavian diplomacy. It asks, who benefitted from the commercial diplomacy and why?

The study demonstrates the flexibility of the system of national flags in the late 17th century. In the 1670s and 1680s, the Dutch merchants could exploit the changing course of the Swedish foreign policies from pro-French towards the maritime powers. As a result, Amsterdam merchants dictated several terms in the commercial treaties between the States General and Swedish king and increased their legal rights in the Swedish cities. Consequently, the Dutch merchants increasingly flew the Dutch flag, especially in the Swedish Southern Baltic ports in the 1680s. During the Nine Years War, however, the Swedish neutral trade increased whereas the trade with Dutch flags diminished in the Baltic Sea region. This was partly due to the fact that the very same Amsterdam merchants changed the nationality of their vessels to Swedish. It was the first time when the ‘Scandinavian neutrality’ mattered in terms of merchant houses exploiting the legal principle of ‘free ships, free goods’”.

Students and staff are invited for this seminar.

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