The Let's Play Archive

Empire: Total War

by Yukitsu

Part 4: November 11 Broadcast

You are listening to BBC radio 4. In an hour, Douglas Dawkins will be exploring the forbidden city of China in “Lost Empires”. For the next hour, Professor David Stephenson will be presenting a documentary on the second 80 years war of the eighteenth century. This series will be running every third day, up to 50 episodes. If you want news of the current war in the Middle East please channel in to BBC radio 1.

Good evening, and welcome to BBC radio 4. I’m professor David Stephenson, professor of Dutch historical studies at Cambridge. This is the fourth part of our 50 episode special on the second 80 years war over Europe. Joining me for these broadcasts are fellow researchers and scholars Doctor Albert Andrews, specialist in German studies from the Berlin academy, Professor Robert Lowe, specialist in French studies at Cambridge, and a graduate student and technical assistant, Anton Thatcher. Last week, we discussed the Mustard rebellion and election of 1704, and the start of the Dutch industrial revolution.

This week, we’ll be focusing on the field Mr. Thatcher has devoted his studies towards, that being revolutions and technology, and as such, much of this will be voiced by as yet unheard Anton Thatcher.

Among the foremost minds of the time in the United Provinces were Herman Boerhaave, Tiberius Hemsterhuis, Arnold Drakenborch and Willem s’ Gravesande. Riding on the coat tails of them was the elderly Anton van Leeuwenhoek who had been employed by the government by 1712. These great revolutionary scientists and scholars worked hard on key theories in Universities across Europe, the engineers of these prestigious academies then worked hard to apply them.

Utrecht University was the seat of scientific study in the Netherlands, but they contracted out a great deal of research to the rest of their empire.

Gravesande was a scholar who notably corrected Newton’s penetration coefficient by squaring the mass and velocity when he discovered a two pound weight dropped from one meter penetrated four times further than a one pound weight dropped from one meter. A talented professor of physics and mathematics, his theories greatly aided the many researchers under contract to develop weapons and cannons in particular for the United Provinces. A notorious bibliophile, he had a personal librarian on hand at all times, as well as an extensive collection of texts from across Europe at his disposal. The calculation determining the lightest a cannon could get while still penetrating a stone wall is largely accredited to Gravesande.

Herman Boerhaave was a naturalist and physician. Having completed his doctorate in Dutch Guyanna, where he had been cataloguing rare species of bird, he returned to the prestigious Orleans’ academy in France, which had been taken under Dutch control. After only 1 year, he had earned his tenure. His insights into the natural world helped greatly speed scientific discoveries in agriculture and fossil fuels, particularly on crop rotation optimization.

Arnold Drakenborch was more a spy than a scholar. While he had become a doctor of law, he had produced only a single notable text over his life. He had used his legal and business knowledge to acquire patents from other more esteemed professors across Europe, before he came to reside permanently in Cambridge. It is said that he had acquired permission to use over a dozen of Newton’s theories over the course of his lifetime.

Tiberius Hemsterhuis, a young scholar and critic had moved similarly to Orleans, where he was notable for keeping Boerhaave grounded. He himself postulated many humanist and philosophical theories and models, several of which made their way into the politics and economics of the United Provinces. He also toured much of Europe, critiquing and expanding upon many moral philosophies postulated by notable German scholars.

Between these four great minds, the United Provinces flourished scientifically for the next 10 years. With each discovery, another two were unearthed, pushing the United Provinces beyond what the world had seen before. For the first time, production was no longer constrained by man hours or by labour. Any resources that could be found were consumed without wait. The market, which the Dutch had a firm hold over, expanded and prices of resources rose, while the cost of a finished product dropped. For the first time in history, fine clothes, guns, homes, all forms of luxuries had become commonplace. The factory workers, though poorly paid by the standards of today, were still better off than the miners, the farmers and other labouring classes. They would form the burgeoning middle class, and their moderate pay was thrown into the very products they were creating.

Factory towns across France and the United Provinces drew an influx of workers from the farms in the countryside.

Some still debate whether this was truly a revolutionary moment or not. It wasn’t until 1710 that the first Dutch factories had fully incorporated the spinning Jenny to produce clothe at a truly industrial level in factory towns of Ghent, Luxemburg and Den Haag, and their steam driven pumps weren’t used to create deep shaft mines in the Americas until 1709. Neither would extend across their entire empire until the 19th century. However, it was clear that the science and ideas were in place by 1705, that the inventions existed to some degree or another by 1706, and their implementation quickly fostered the advancement of the sciences and innovation in all fields.

Large brick buildings were a common sight during the industrial revolution.

Riding on the winds of his predecessor’s successes was Anton van Leeuwenhoek, an esteemed microbiologist. Accredited with the discovery of single celled organisms, as well as the creation of hundreds of finely crafted microscopes, van Leeuwenhoek’s research in the field of microbiology encouraged rapid advancements in medicine, with many of the discoveries being tragically applied to agriculture, rather than human diseases or sanitation. Older than the others, van Leeuwenhoek had taken considerable time before he was acknowledged for his brilliance, but was made part of the Royal Society in London.

Van Leeuwenhoek’s methods, aside from his research, were most notable in determining ailments and flaws in plants. Finding certain variants that could survive with certain bacterium or fungi present in their tissue revealed bacteria resistant strains of plants.

It wasn't just the Dutch that were inventing however. They were the first to truly embrace the idea that all technology leads to more technology, and that all technology could be bought. The technology market and investment into technology corporations at an international level can be traced to a large degree from the Dutch stock exchange. Rather than depending upon a few rich patrons, brilliant inventors could ply their trade by acquiring investments from the masses.

The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the first public stock exchange in the world.

The Dutch government was eager to purchase patents from their doctors, be they legitimately invented in the United Provinces, or stolen from abroad. Once they were in control of the schematics or techniques of manufacture, they sold them to the governments of other nations at a premium. Philosophies, weapons, land reforms. All these and more could be purchased at a whim from the Dutch. So too could one turn a profit from their inventors by selling to the Dutch, who in turn would sell the technology and plans to every other nation who had the funds available. The Dutch made tens of millions of guilders every year from this sale. Other nations entrenched in the idea that technology kept secret made their nation more prestigious eventually lagged far behind.

Technology the Dutch had access to by 1715.

Famous patents the Dutch either invented or acquired during the early 1700s were the spinning Jenny, and the Spinning mule, investments which were used across France to replace the cottage industry of weavers with massive factories. Steam powered pumps, used in gold and silver mines in the Americas to siphon out deep well water letting miners dig deeper. The economic ramifications of these inventions can’t be understated. With more resources and more products, Dutch fabric was exported the world over and bought at nearly dirt cheap prices. Iron products from Dutch foundries could be found in the homes and on the fence grates of every estate across Europe, sold at a high and consistent quality for far cheaper. Many of the factory machine parts, pumps, engines and components were developed in the University in Orleans in France after the Dutch had taken over. The largest source of industry meant the inventors were highly motivated in researching factory and production.

Mines in the colonies fueled the minting of thousands of mechanically stamped coins in Clermont, France.

Ring, then socket bayonets which allowed infantry to both fire their muskets and fight in melee simultaneously, particularly handy against cavalry. Lighter, mobile artillery that could be re-positioned in the midst of combat armed with chemical and explosive munitions that were far more effective than solid shot at shredding infantry formations apart. With the vast wealth and many iron mines and foundries across the French countryside, the Dutch could arm their men with the best in muskets and cannon. These weapons were developed primarily in Utrecht, as it allowed the Dutch government a stronger monopoly on certain military inventions, preventing the French citizens from arming themselves on equitable terms to the Dutch.

Despite the superior muskets and mobile artillery, such as the howitzers in the background, the Dutch still relied on very poorly trained infantry.

Naval inventions, almost entirely invented in Cambridge, but many stolen and bought by the Dutch, included larger ships of the line, superior navigation tools, tighter, more water tight wood, heavier cannons and faster, more maneuverable ships. Between the British inventions, and the Dutch investments or acquisitions, the two emerged the early 1700s as by far the most dominant naval powers in the world. Cambridge was the seat of naval innovation, but the Dutch were able to acquire many of their patents, an act that would later cause some strain between themselves and the British.

The Westfreisland, a 72 gun ship of the line was of a British design, but the Dutch V.O.C. were the first to finance a 72's creation. This ship was commissioned in Brest, France.

Four field crop rotations, seed planting drills were implemented across all of the United Provnices to increase crop yields. These inventions caused a population explosion to the United Provinces, and an exodus away from the increasingly mechanized countryside into the urban factories. Everywhere, the Dutch Empire faced incredibly growth in population. These innovations were also largely created in Orleans, France, where the vast farmland and winery estates allowed for tremendous gains in production.

When one thinks of the Dutch countryside, they think of their iconic windmills, but the Dutch also had highly productive farms.

A wide variety of social and economic reforms were purchased from the Germans, especially relating to the stock market, investment behavior, tax policy, civil rights and a wide variety of other philosophical topics spurred fierce competitiveness among business owners who wanted to gain any advantage. Policies enacted by the government granting greater worker rights, greater business freedom and exemptions from military activity allowed the free market to flourish. Many of these economic and political theories were created by the Germans, and purchased by the Dutch.

Adam Smith, a Scottish economist wrote the "Wealth of Nations", an iconic work that had a profound influence on policy and business.

It’s theorized that this selling of technology helped spread ideas across Europe much faster than they would have naturally moved, and in a field where ideas were capital and a means to riches, inventiveness was multiplied in every country, even if the inventions themselves congregated in the Netherlands. Where another nation had used the advances bought from the Dutch to further themselves, the Dutch were always close behind willing to pay or trade near anything for new technologies. Technological prospecting had become an official part of the Amsterdam commodities exchange where accredited inventors of prestigious universities could get hundreds of thousands of guilders from the Dutch populace who had speculated on the success or failure of ideas, be they philosophical or technological.

The Dutch government incentivized the early adapters and provided a safety blanket for investors who jumped on to failed technologies. This cost a great deal of money, but earned even more.

It’s hard to say if the technology bubble of the 1700s had truly crashed. While inventors would eventually start running dry of marketable ideas, and witless investors were conned of their money, the amount of free money floating through the pockets of rich investors, hedged with trade investments, seemed impossible to shatter. In the long run, it is likely that it had crashed, but as it had never surpassed, or even matched the true commodities market, the drop certainly was unable to ruin the Dutch economy. The Dutch ministers fearing another Tulip mania, may have reigned in the trade of technology and ideas, though the Dutch government on a global level did not seem adverse to the profits it could bring.

Semper Augustus, the most expensive bulb during the greatest economic crash in the United Provinces up to the 1800s.

Despite the brisk and powerful increase in revenue and advancement the relative peace the Dutch had earned, they were still at war with Spain, and their allies were besieged by the Prussians and the Swedes. Though 1705 had been largely a profitable year for the Netherlands, their long time trade partner Westphalia had been encircled at land by the Prussians, and many of her towns and cities had been burned nearly to the ground, cutting the trade income from the Germans nearly in half. The war in the Americas against the Spanish was also a considerable tax burden on the people of Amsterdam. Karel Vrooman, the general appointed to the American theater managed to Capture Santo Domingo by April 7th, 1708 in a siege that had started in 1706, expanding Dutch control over the Atlantic, but revealing a flaw in their conquest of the Americas.

Karel Vrooman performs a rear charge against axe wielding native auxiliary troops in Spanish held Santo Domingo after personally spiking their artillery. Vrooman was outnumbered three to one in open field against the Spanish.

The sugar market from the Americas was quickly running into a saturation state and the rapid fall of income in the Caribbean islands meant that soon policing the Americas would cost more than the tax money they would earn. So long as the bottom didn’t fall off the sugar market however, the islands would remain at least profitable. More likely however, the Dutch would need to find more markets for their burgeoning sugar plantations.

The United Provinces were constantly expanding their sugar plantations in the Americas, but were not finding new buyers. Dutch companies competing against one another drove sugar prices down 33% between 1700 and 1710.

With Dutch finances being siphoned off to pay the army, which the Caribbean certainly could not sustain indefinitely, these small islands were a constant drain on the Dutch. Meanwhile, the Spanish were able to consolidate their newly freed revenue into a strong force in Madrid. Barely able to control France, and doing so at a tremendous annual loss, the Dutch coffers in Amsterdam were emptying almost as fast as they were being filled, meaning the Dutch were ill prepared at this time to fulfill their desire to eliminate the Spanish Hapsburg oppressors. Estimating another 10 years before France was suitably stabilized, the United Provinces were certainly not as powerful as they appeared on the outside, but if the Spanish didn't capitalize on this within the next year, the advantage would be lost.

The Spanish were in just as poor condition to attack that year as the Dutch, but had they been in position, it may have awarded them some much needed victories.

This internal budgeting kept the Dutch in check, but to her east, powerful empires were being forged over wars in central Europe. Next broadcast, we discuss the rising powers in the east; the Empires to rival the Dutch, and the start of the much anticipated Spanish wars.

This has been the fourth look into the second 80 years war, presented by David Stephenson. Douglas Dawkins will now be presenting the Forbidden City of China in his Lost Empires series. In half an hour, we will be presenting world news. If you want news of the current war in the Middle East please channel in to BBC radio 1. David Stephenson will be presenting more on the 80 years war in 3 days.