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Netherlands Scottish History
The Scottish Staple in the Netherlands

In the present volume I have endeavoured to give, in so far as possible, a consecutive history of the development of the trade relations between Scotland and the Netherlands from their earliest beginnings until the year 1676. The many and varied relations between these two countries in former times, interesting in no small degree to the general student of history, are still more so to one who was born and brought up in Holland and received part of his education at the University of Edinburgh. My acquaintance with both countries, my knowledge of their languages, and my sympathy with their respective national characters combined to inspire me with a wish to study these relations.

The intercourse between the two countries, however, proved on investigation to have been so intermittent, and of so varied a nature, that it was impossible to give a consecutive account of all the forms in which it was carried on at different times. Moreover, several of them had already been dealt with. The history of the Scottish churches in the Netherlands has been recorded by the Rev. William Stevens, whilst the book of Mr. J. Ferguson deals with the Scottish troops in that country. As the trade relations between Scotland and the Netherlands were the earliest and most continuous form of this intercourse, I fixed on them as a suitable subject. I was well aware that there already existed a book on the Scottish trade with the Low-Countries, written in the second half of the eighteenth century by the Rev. James Yair, minister at Veere. It was, in fact, the reading of this book and the realisation of its incompleteness, that induced me to take up this line of research.

The printed Records of the Convention of the Royal Burghs of Scotland contain a great deal of the most useful information on the Scottish side, and from them I have quoted extensively. The writings of Messrs. J. W. Perrels, J. L. van Dalen and N. Japikse in the publications of the "Zeeuwsch Genootschap der Wetenschappen " furnished me with valuable material on the Dutch side. Besides these, I consulted the Acts of Parliament, the Register of the Privy Council, and a great number of historical works both in English and in Dutch. I searched the Archives of the different towns with which the Scots had dealings. Those of Veere, the Campvere of the old days, yielded most material, seeing that the Scottish Staple was almost continuously settled there for centuries. The absence of a catalogue or of any systematic arrangement of the documents proved a great obstacle to the work at Veere. From among the many hundreds of documents which I read through, or copied, in the Archives of Edinburgh, London, Lille, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Middelburg, Veere, Dordrecht, Rotterdam, and The Hague, I have made a careful selection and collected in an appendix those which seemed to me to be of more particular interest. A great number of these documents have never been published before. In order to make the documentary evidence as complete as possible, I have included along with these many that have already appeared in print. But it is very much to be regretted that so many valuable records have been lost. Of ten manuscript books, covering a period from 1570 to 1688, and comprising Court books and collections of Acts, Statutes, and Ordinances, mentioned in 1691 as being in the Conservator's custody, not a single one is now known to exist. Only a few scraps and extracts from Court books have been preserved. In working out these trade relations I have treated them from a purely historical and political point of view, making many digressions which may prove of historical interest to the reader, I have endeavoured to show how the history of the two countries and their relations to one another, and to other countries, influenced the course of trade and often occasioned important changes in the Staple. It will also be seen how in the course of time the Royal Burghs of Scotland had to cede their once absolute control of the Staple arrangements to the growing power and influence of the ruling monarch, and how, to the detriment of trade, the Conservator of the Scottish privileges in the Low Countries, who at first acted solely at the promoter of trade and as the governor of the Scottish colony, gradually came to be the King's Agent. Some periods and episodes I have treated more extensively than others owing to their greater historical interest. It was not my intention to write an economic study, but I trust that among the many documents contained in the appendix the student of economics may find material which will be of use to him.

Although the Staple remained in existence until the year 1795, I thought it advisable to stop at its reinstallation at Veere in 1676. The history of the Staple from that date onwards is one of gradual decay. With the changing of policies and the breaking down of old institutions it became an anachronism and no longer answered the purposes for which it had been originally instituted.

Since the completion of my work, several months ago, there has appeared another book on the same subject "The Scottish Staple at Veere" by J. Davidson and A. Gray. This admirable history possesses a dual character. The first part aimed at being an economic history of Scotland, which the late Professor Davidson unfortunately did not live to complete. It would have formed a most useful and interesting volume by itself. In the second part, dealing with the Scottish Staple, not only at Yeere, as the title indicates, but also elsewhere, Mr. Gray has carried the labours of his predecessor to a worthy completion. Owing to the fact that Mr. Gray has written mainly from published sources, and that his treatment of the material, under different headings and largely from the economic point of view, differs so widely from the documentary, chronological, and historical method adopted by myself, the two books may perhaps be found to serve as useful complements to one another.

In conclusion I should like to acknowledge my indebtedness to the Keepers of the different Archives, who helped me in my work by granting me ready access to the papers in their custody, and to the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.


Edinburgh, August, 1909.

You can download the book here



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