“Canaux, Canards, Canaille”? French Public Opinion and the Netherlands
This chapter examines depictions of the Netherlands in French public opinion during the period 1785–1815. The chapter focuses on the constructed realities and entrenched stereotypes of latent public opinion, offering an insight into how the French public viewed their Dutch neighbours. It shows that French conceptions of the Netherlands—once described by Voltaire as a land of “canaux, canards, canaille”—were by no means universally unfavourable. The chapter also traces the evolution of active French opinion across the years of alliance, enmity, conquest and eventual annexation, showing the changes in French attitudes to the Netherlands, and offers a discussion of ideas of the nation and national identity in the French context.