London is the premier centre in the English-speaking world for research in Low Countries history and culture, including the Golden Ages of Flanders and Holland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Its resources for research in this field are truly extraordinary, ranging from manuscripts to paintings, pamphlets to engravings.
The British Library
With some 17,500 seventeenth-century Dutch imprints, the British Library hosts the biggest Dutch and Flemish collections outside the Low Countries.
Its collection of early modern materials rival those in the national libraries of Belgium and the Netherlands.
Early modern poetry, drama, theology, and politics are very well represented, as are the natural sciences and the superb history of printing in the Low Countries.
- Dutch and Flemish Collections
- Dutch Printed Collections (1501–1850)
- Knuttel Collection of Dutch pamphlets (c. 1486–1750)
- Beudeker Collection: Maps & Views of the Lowlands
Senate House Library
Housed at the University of London the library includes over 700 titles published by the renowned Elzevier publishing house in the seventeenth century.
This collection compliments the holdings of the British Library to provide nearly a complete set of Elseviers in London.
Senate House Library also owns a substantial Belgian collection.
Library of the Institute for Historical Research
Part of the University of London Research Library Services), this library specialises in research aids, such as inventories and catalogues, and in modern printed editions of primary sources.
A complete set of the Rijks Geschiedkundige Publicatiën is among the riches available for perusal on open shelves in the Library’s Low Countries Room.
The Institute Library
is also the only one in the UK with full sets of various genealogical
and antiquarian periodicals from the Low Countries.
UCL Main Library
Boasting the largest Low Countries studies collection in a UK university library, its importance is acknowledged by the continuing financial support of the Nederlandse Taalunie (Dutch Language Union).
The collection consists of approximately 13,800 books of primary and secondary materials and some 100 periodicals.
The National Archives
Located in Kew, the archives contain a vast quantity of materials relating to the history of the Low Countries generally and to relations between Britain and the Low Countries specifically.
Most of these materials are contained in two collections:
The latter includes some 6000 boxes of `Prize Papers’ seized from Dutch ships in the 17th and 18th centuries. Only recently inventoried, these papers, still largely unexplored, include a mass of 17th and 18th-century letters written by Dutch merchants and sailors to their families and vice-versa.
Local and Church Archives
As a magnet over the centuries for refugees and immigrants from the Low Countries, a variety of local and church archives (e.g. that of Austin Friars, the Dutch Reformed Church in London) contain records with demographic, family, and other data about the many thousands of Netherlanders who have lived in England.
The following hold major collections of Dutch and Flemish art, including top pieces by the great masters:
- Apsley House
- Dulwich Picture Gallery
- The Courtauld Gallery
- Kenwood House
- The National Gallery
- The Wallace Collection
A wealth of Dutch and Flemish material, including 82 drawings by Rembrandt himself are included in the following collection:
It is also worth noting that London museums and galleries host frequent exhibitions devoted to a particular corpus of Dutch and Flemish art, for example:
- Rubens and His Legacy (Royal Academy of Arts, 2015)
- Rembrandt - The Late Works (National Gallery, 2014)
- The Real Van Gogh - The Artist and His Letters (Royal Academy of Arts, 2010)
- Van Dyck and Britain (Tate Britain, 2009)
Last but not least there is the UCL Art Museum which has a collection of Rembrandt prints and other Dutch and Flemish objects.
Institute for Historical Research
Part of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, the institute hosts a seminar series which takes place around 10 times a year and sees UK, Dutch, Belgian and other and international scholars present the findings of recent
research. scholars and postgraduate
students from universities across southern England attend.
Also part of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, the Warburg Institute enjoys world fame as a centre for the study of Renaissance culture in all its aspects, visual as well as textual.
As one of the key foci of Renaissance culture, the Low Countries are central to the Institute’s library holdings, its photographic collection (a vast assemblage of photographs and photocopies useful for research in iconology), and to the research agendas of its staff, which includes experts in Rubens and in Dutch still life paintings.
The Committee for Low Countries Studies in London exists to co-ordinate activity and exchange information between individuals active in Low Countries studies in London. It comprises scholars active in the field, plus representatives of the Royal Netherlands Embassy, the Embassy of Belgium in London, and Flanders House, which represents the Flemish Government, and is overseen by an Advisory Board.