being completed at HERTFORD COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD
Anthony Van Dyck, Lucas Van Uffelen (died 1637), circa 1621-7, oil on canvas, © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913. (Reproduction of any kind is prohibited without express written permission in advance from The Metropolitan Museum of Art.)
…those of our Netherlandish ‘nation’, above all others in the world, are inclined to travel, and visit foreign lands and peoples…
Karel van Mander, Het schilder-boeck (1604)
Driven by curiosity and a keen commercial sense, Flemish (southern Netherlandish) merchants left their homeland in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and travelled to exotic lands like Brazil, the Levant and India. They quickly became pioneers in Europe’s discovery of – and fascination with - the ‘otherness’ of the rest of the world.
To know the stories of these unsung heroes is to understand the excitement and compulsion behind the European voyages of discovery and the resultant globalisation of the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries - the Age of Exploration.
Beginning with the Flemish in West Africa in the second half of the fifteenth century, this study will progress through time and the Flemish communities in Lisbon, Brazil, Venice, Southeast Asia, Russia and North America, returning to and ending in Venice in the seventeenth century. Individual merchants such as Lucas van Uffelen (see left) will serve as case studies in each of the trading posts. Van Uffelen belonged to one of the great Antwerp mercantile families. Born, however, in the northern Netherlands after his parents left Antwerp, he illustrates the continuation of the cosmopolitan commercial culture of Antwerp and the southern Netherlands in the North into the seventeenth century.
These interwoven biographies will form the first collective study of Flemish merchant colonies dispersed across the globe between 1450 and 1650 and result in a unique narrative. Indirectly, it will tell the story of the rise and fall of Antwerp, the economic powerhouse of northern Europe if not the entire Continent, during the sixteenth century. Demonstrating the fundamental, yet neglected, importance of Antwerp and the southern Netherlanders to early modern globalisation, this project will also show the Flemish as leaders in the trade of commodities such as sugar, gems and fur.
Explorers, adventurers and entrepreneurs, the Flemish in the early modern period deserve to be remembered - and celebrated.
For more about Christina Anderson and her work at Oxford, please click on the links below.
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