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Toleration and Tolerance in the Netherlands
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Toleration and Tolerance in the Netherlands

(E.H. Kossmann) The Low Countries - 1997, № 5, pp. 31-37

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The Dutch have long been convinced that their society displays the virtue of tolerance. For centuries they have cherished tolerance as a priceless heritage. Even today, when tolerance has come to be regarded as the hall-mark of a decent society, they consider it their duty, on the grounds of tradition, to guard it with even greater care than, as they suspect, is customary in other states. Any consideration of the history of toleration and tolerance in the Nether lands reveals a far from simple picture, and this is also the case in this article. Nevertheless the autor proposes his personal conclusion about the matter. What links the Netherlands of the seventeenth century with the Netherlands of the twentieth is perhaps that people then as now attempt to keep their highly complex society afloat and stable, not by demanding as great a degree of uniformity as possible but, if we may so express it, by exploring the limits within which maximum freedom and tolerance must be contained in order to avoid the risk of disintegration and anarchy. And that was, then as much as now, perhaps more a practical question than one of speculation, theory and principle.

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