By Marc Geerdink-Schaftenaar.
You probably heard of the battle of Fontenoy. If you have, you probably heard of the British and French officers greeting each other and inviting the other to open fire first. You might be able to mention other events that happened at that battle. And you may even remember that there were Dutch troops present as well. But what was their role in that battle? What was their role at all in the War of the Austrian Succession? Now that you mention it: what did the Dutch do in the 18th century anyway?
The army of the Dutch Republic sounds familiar, and it should: we are talking about one of the major European powers of the 18th century. Or well, at least it was still during the WAS. I mean: any country with a mere three million inhabitants that can bring 100,000 troops in the field, that’s quite something. But when you look for books on uniforms, uniform plates, or just a painting, you’re not going to find much.
I’ve written more articles in the past, and given several lectures, all for a select audience. I’m an active re-enactor and living history enthusiast, and my idea has always been that information should be shared. So I’ve written several documents on diverse topics that are easily available for everyone. Several years ago, I wrote an article on the Scots Brigade of the Dutch Republic for Skirmish Magazine. It was because of that article that I was contacted through Facebook, and asked if I wanted to write for Helion and Company. That was an offer I could not refuse. The subject I immediately had in mind was the army of the Dutch Republic, and specifically between 1713 and 1772. It’s a subject of which there is little to find. There are several reasons for that, which I go over in my book, and that’s too bad really, because the 18th century is a turbulent episode in the history of the Republic: it was a time when the country was deeply divided between Orangist and Republican factions, it lost its position as a leading European power, there was social unrest… and there was an army. And an interesting one at that!
So I started doing research, caught up on my reading, and sought paintings and illustrations to accompany the text. Not an easy task, also because I am married, have four kids and a fulltime job as a teaching assistant. Deadlines were missed, emails were sent… But once my writing gained momentum, the manuscript for part one, about the infantry, was ready, and I’m proud that my book is now available: For Orange and the States. The Army of the Dutch Republic, Part I: Infantry. As you can see, the title explains immediately what the book is about.
Part II by the way, on cavalry, artillery and specialist troops, is well under way. Although I believe these books will fill a hiatus, I must stress that this is a well-intended attempt at bringing to light information on the uniforms of the States’ army in the 18th century for the first time. I don’t pretend to have written the definitive work on Dutch 18th century uniforms, but I do hope it will inspire others to either do more research themselves, or the works on Dutch military history, such as the books of Dr O. Van Nimwegen, will be translated for an international audience.
About my book: I’ve written the book, keeping in mind that most readers will have at least some knowledge about 18th century military history. Therefore, there are no elaborate descriptions of battles, except for the specific roles the Dutch troops played in them (like at Fontenoy). Nor will several military terms be explained. But for the history buff, there is a lot to find, such as eyewitness accounts and previously unseen images and information.
In the future, I plan to write more on the Dutch army of the 18th century and the Napoleonic era, and, if I can find the time, begin making uniform illustrations again. I hope you enjoy the book, and be sure to look out for Part II, which is planned to be published next December.
Order your copy of For Orange and the States. The Army of the Dutch Republic, Part I: Infantry here.