The Civil War is Alive and Well in Amsterdam

3757139673_c22e516da5One of the pleasures of spending a week in a place like Amsterdam is having the opportunity to browse the numerous bookstores that dot the city.  I can spend hours in bookstores, especially antiquarian bookstores where the added bonus is the smell of old leather-bound volumes.  There were quite a number of small-independent bookstores and the people who work in them are very helpful.  Unfortunately, they are dealing with the same pressures that independent shops here are currently facing.  Luckily, there were a few stores that stocked English titles so I was able to find and purchase books about the history of the city.  Some might think it a waste of time, but one of the things I enjoy when traveling is spending time in a cafe with a good book on the history of the city in question.  As absorbed as I am with American history, I am always surprised by how easily I can distance myself from it when overseas.  It’s a healthy diversion and one that I should engage in much more often to deal with any lingering vestiges of “American Exceptionalism”.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the selection that you can find in Amsterdam’s bookstores, especially in the area of American history.  In fact, the selection of American history books is actually better compared with what I can find at my local Barnes and Noble.  It would have been somewhat depressing if the only book on the Civil War was the Politically Correct Guide, but there were plenty of new titles to choose from and even a nice selection of new Lincoln titles.

What do the number of bookstores and quality of selection tell us about Dutch culture?  Not exactly sure, so perhaps I need to return at some point to investigate further. :)

CraterThanks for reading this post. Scroll down, leave a comment and join the conversation if you are so inclined. Follow me on Twitter and join the Civil War Memory Facebook group for continuous updates and additional links to newsworthy items from around the interwebs. Stay up to date by subscribing to this blog’s feed. You can also check out my recently published book, Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder.

3 comments… add one

  • TF Smith Aug 2, 2009

    Thinking of things Dutch and Civil War-related, what was the Kingdoms’ position on the war? And on slavery?

    I assume the Netherlands abolished chattel slavery in their American colonies after the British but before the Brazilians, but don’t actually know; I also assume that Indonesian historians would have a different take on when that policy was actually extended to the Netherlands East Indies.

    As far as the war goes, the positions of the British, French, Spanish, Russians, Prussians, and Mexicans toward the (US) Civil War have been explored in various works over the years; where did Dutch sympathies (official and popular) lie, and did the Ditch government and/or military draw any lessons from the “first modern war” elements of the conflict?

  • Craig Aug 2, 2009

    The regiment in which my great great grandfather served was commanded by a German, though the majority of the men in the unit, about two-thirds, were Anglo-Irish and born in the U. S., while the minority, roughly a third of the unit, were German immigrants. I don’t know if it was a characteristic of such units generally, but the company in which he served had about the same proportion of German immigrants to Anglo-Irish Americans as the regiment at large. The interesting thing to me is that the non-commisioned officers, the sergeants and corporals promoted from the rank of private in that company, appear to have been Dutch immigrants. My impression is that emigration to America from Holland preceded German emigration by nearly a century and was more readily assimilated.

  • Paul Bernish Aug 8, 2009

    Where I work (the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati), we host numerous foreign visitors from around the globe. I have found almost all of these people to be interested in our Civil War — in fact, fascinated would probably be the more accurate term. We invariably are asked many questions about Lincoln and his role in freeing the slaves, and I sometimes have the feeling that citizens of other countries know more about U.S. history than we do.

Leave a Comment