The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:

Open location in Google Maps: 51.220646, 4.416504

4 Annotations

First Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Antwerp is a city in the Lowlands in Europe, located on the right bank of the river Scheldt, which is linked to the North Sea by the Westerschelde.

16th century

After the closing of the [River] Zwin [from silting up ca. 1500] and the consequent decline of Bruges, the city of Antwerp, then part of the Duchy of Brabant, became of importance. At the end of the 15th century the foreign trading houses were transferred from Bruges to Antwerp, and the building assigned to the English nation is specifically mentioned in 1510.

Fernand Braudel states that Antwerp became "the center of the entire international economy—-something Bruges had never been even at its height." (Braudel 1985 p. 143.) Antwerp's "Golden Age" is tightly linked to the "Age of Exploration". Over the first half of the 16th century Antwerp grew to become the second largest European city north of the Alps by 1560. Many foreign merchants were resident in the city. Guicciardini, the Venetian envoy, stated that hundreds of ships would pass in a day, and 2000 carts entered the city each week. Portuguese ships laden with pepper and cinnamon would unload their cargo.

Without a long-distance merchant fleet, and governed by an oligarchy of banker-aristocrats forbidden to engage in trade, the economy of Antwerp was foreigner-controlled, which made the city very international, with merchants and traders from Venice, Ragusa, Spain and Portugal. Antwerp had a policy of toleration, which attracted a large orthodox Jewish community. Antwerp was not a "free" city though, since it had been reabsorbed into the duchy of Brabant in 1406 and was controlled from Brussels.

Antwerp experienced three booms during its golden age, the first based on the pepper market, a second launched by American silver coming from Seville (ending with the bankruptcy of Spain in 1557), and a third boom, after the stabilising Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis, in 1559, based on the textiles industry. The boom-and-bust cycles and inflationary cost-of-living squeezed less-skilled workers.

The religious revolution of the Reformation erupted in violent riots in August 1566, as in other parts of the Netherlands. ...When the Eighty Years' War broke out in 1572, commercial trading between Antwerp and the Spanish port of Bilbao was not possible. On November 4, 1576, the Spanish soldiers plundered the city. During the Spanish Fury 6000 citizens were massacred, 800 houses were burnt down, and over two millions sterling of damage was done.

Antwerp became the capital of the Dutch revolt. In 1585, Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza, captured it after a long siege and sent its Protestant citizens into exile. Antwerp's banking was controlled for a generation by Genoa and Amsterdam became the new trading centre.

17th-19th centuries

The recognition of the independence of the United Provinces by the Treaty of Munster in 1648 stipulated that the Scheldt should be closed to navigation, which destroyed Antwerp's trading activities[; the city was now politically in Spanish Netherlands, blocked by the United Provinces from access to the sea (1579-1713)]. This impediment remained in force until 1863....…

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

This 21st century map shows the islands that protect the entrance to the port of Amsterdam, which includes Vlieland, Texel and are collectively known as the West Frisian Islands. Move the map south, and you can see how the tiny country of the Netherlands is interconnected.

Antwerp is quite a long way south, in the Spanish Netherlands/Flanders.…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The British -- not that they called themselves that -- avoided Antwerp because it was in the Catholic Spanish Netherlands. It was also in what they referred to as Flanders. And it was a center for fine art.

In the late 16th and 17th centuries, Antwerp was a design studio for the world.
The port city, in what was then the Habsburg Spanish Netherlands, suffered from the religious conflicts of the time, but weathered sack and damage from armies on both sides of the long wars of religion to reinvent itself as a center of art, engraving and publication.
Antwerp was also a hub of typography and printing, especially after the establishment of the mighty international firm of Officina Plantiniana in 1555.

The city’s artists excelled in many spheres, but especially in the arts of drawing and design: Antwerp prints travelled throughout the Habsburg realms and beyond. Designs derived from them can be found in mission churches in the Andes, on tombstones in remote Scottish graveyards, on Chinese ceramics made under Jesuit auspices, and on metalwork and title pages throughout the early modern world.

‘Bruegel to Rubens: Great Flemish Drawings’ at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford until 23 June, 2024 offers a glimpse of the multiple possibilities and uses of drawing in Flanders, and takes a broad view of what might be defined as a drawing.

Preparatory studies for grand paintings are represented here, as in Rubens’ casually massive charcoal study of a nude male torso, which reappears in his Raising of the Cross (1610–11) in Antwerp Cathedral.

There are delicate, sardonic pages from friendship albums; designs for tapestries, title pages, stained glass; jewel-colored studies of tulips, roses and insects painted on vellum by Joris Hoefnagel; delicate watercolor landscapes, glimmering like enamel, that are finished works in themselves, such as The Fall of Icarus (1590) by Hans Bol.

Photos and more info at…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

A full-throated defense of Rubens -- with many examples located in Antwerp -- can be found Episode 2 of "The Baroque Tradition: From St. Peter's to St. Paul's" -- hosted by Waldemar Januszczak -- but I recommend watching the whole series!…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.