the 17th century the Dutch port of Rotterdam became the centre
of a trading empire that spanned the globe. The Dutch were the
first nation in Europe to value trade more than religion and nurtured
a tolerant state which took in religious refugees from across
Europe. Attracted by Rotterdams tolerance and the obvious
economic opportunities, the town went on to outshine Veere as
the focus of Scots trade in Europe.
Kirk in Rotterdam
From the 1640s the Scots Kirk in Rotterdam attracted merchants
and religious exiles alike. By the 1680s there were over 1000
Scots in Rotterdam. Scottish and Dutch Calvinism were very similar
in outlook and the two seem to have happily co-existed, indeed
the mild form of Calvinism developed in Holland seems to have
positively softened the Scottish Kirk. In Rotterdam the closeness
of the two schools of Calvinism had practical embodiment in
that the Dutch state funded the Scottish Kirk. The Kirk did,
however, continue to take its spiritual guidance directly from
Most Scots lived in the poorer areas of Rotterdam and worked
in a variety of skilled trades. The community flourished and
integrated easily into Dutch society - many Dutch people still
have Scots surnames.
Scots in Rotterdam were peaceful merchants, traders or craftsmen,
others were religious exiles who caused considerable trouble
for the Scottish government from the safety of Holland. One
such example is that of Andrew Russell, a very wealthy merchant
and Elder of the Scots Kirk, who was accused of sheltering the
murderers of a Scottish Archbishop in Rotterdam. Infuriated,
the Scottish government banned all Scots from trading with him.
However, they underestimated Russells power as a trader
and after bitter complaints about the disruption to Scottish
trade the government was forced to climb down within six months.
Since the Wars of Independence (1286-1328), Scots in search
of university education had gone to the continent and especially
to the leading university of Paris. However, by the 17th century
those who were seeking a professional education sought out Leiden,
near Rotterdam, rather than Paris. From the years 1572 to 1800,
1460 Scots students enrolled at Leiden. In Law and medicine,
two subjects in which the Scots still excel, the impact of Dutch
thought was immense.
Over half the Scots students at Leiden studied law. When they
returned to Scotland, they dominated the Faculty of Advocates
and laid down the theoretical basis of modern Scots law. Since
lawyers were at the forefront of the nascent Scottish Enlightenment,
the Dutch influence on Scotlands culture cannot be underestimated.
too, Leiden gave the lead. Sir Robert Sibbald, the first Professor
of Physic at Edinburgh in 1685, was educated there and went
on to create Edinburghs famous Botanical Gardens - based
on Dutch models for medical gardens. When Edinburgh University
established its world-famous Medical Faculty in 1726, its founder,
Alexander Munro, and four of its professors had all studied
at Leiden and taught a modern curriculum based on Leidens
own .Even Edinburghs Royal Infirmary, opened in 1741,
was based on a Leiden hospital.