Modern history


I WOULD like to acknowledge with thanks those persons and institutions who helped me to locate sources in an unfamiliar field and otherwise assisted in the production of this book.

First, to my husband, Lester Tuchman, whose dependable presence and aid in support of failing eyesight is the rock on which this house is built.

H. E. Richard H. Fein, Ambassador of the Netherlands to the United States, who gave the initial impetus by an invitation to address the Commemoration in 1985 of the fortieth anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands.

Dr. Fred de Bruin of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

Special thanks to my daughter Alma Tuchman for persistence in untangling confusions, detecting errors and setting things straight, and additional thanks to my granddaughter Jennifer Eisenberg for help in the preparation of the reference notes.

A. B. C. Whipple of Greenwich, Connecticut, author of Fighting Sail, for clarification in the language and understanding of naval matters.

Dawnita Bryson, my secretary and typist, for devoted work through a difficult maze.

Han Jordaan of The Hague for records of Johannes de Graaff in the Archive of the West India Company.

G. W. Van der Meiden, Keeper of the First Section, Netherlands Rijks Archive.

Colonel Trevor Dupuy for guidance in the military history of the American Revolution.

Professor Simon Schama of Harvard University on questions of Dutch history.

Professor Freeman Dyson of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, for supplying the quotation from Hakluyt on naval education (this page).

Galen Wilson, Manuscript Curator of the William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, for records of Sir Henry Clinton.

Dr. Marie Devine, Joan Sussler, Catherine Justin and Anna Malicka, librarians of the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University, whose acquaintance with and instant recall of the contents of their collection is stunning.

Mark Piel, Director of the New York Society Library, and his staff for their kind assistance in many ways.

Rodney Phillips, Elizabeth Diefendorf and Joyce Djurdjevich of the New York Public Library for bibliographical help and guidance in the reference division. Bridie Race, secretary to the corporation, who pulls all wires with charm and efficiency.

Todd Ellison of Greenbelt, Maryland, for finding the Van Bibber correspondence in the Maryland Archives, and for his careful analysis of Clark’s Naval Documents.

Dorothy Hughes, London, for research assistance at the Public Record Office.

Joan Kerr, Richard Snow and Arthur Nielsen of American Heritage for picture research.

Geraldine Ostrove and Charles Sens, Music Division of Library of Congress, for material on “The World Turned Upside Down.”

The staff of the Historical Museum of St. Eustatius.

The staff of the Greenwich Library, in Connecticut, for answering many queries with unfailing courtesy and for efficient service in inter-library loans.

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania for records of the flag of the Continental Congress made by Margaret Manny.

New London, Connecticut, Historical Society and The National Maritime Museum, London, for naval records.

The MacDowell Colony, which has understood and arranged the perfect conditions for a place for uninterrupted and consecutive work away from the distractions of home.

The Dana Palmer House, at Harvard University, for a working residence next door to a great library.

Mary Maguire and Nancy Clements of Alfred A. Knopf and Barbara DeWolfe for indispensable aid in the publishing process.


A NUMBER of difficulties and discrepancies exist in the narrative: the first is the peculiar peregrination of Windward and Leeward islands in the Caribbean whose location and designation find no agreement among various atlases and current sources on the West Indies. The cartographic division of the National Geographic Society explains one reason for the confusion, namely that there is a “slight overlap” of the islands at the mid-point of the West Indian chain. According to the National Geographic, Dominica and the chain extending north of Martinique belong to the Leeward group and those south of Dominica down to and including Barbados and Tobago belong to the Windward group. I leave this problem to the controversy that will inevitably ensue, knowing that the definitive is elusive.

A SECOND problem is the continual elasticity in the given number of ships in a squadron or fleet. As explained in the footnote on this page, the count suffers from uncertain visibility at sea and depends upon whether frigates and merchant ships are counted along with ships of the line and whether a certain number may have left the squadron or been added to it after the count was made.

MONEY, that is, the value of a foreign currency in the late 18th century, or its equivalent to a better-known currency or to our own in contemporary terms, is of course a perennial problem in all historical studies. I can do no better than quote what I wrote in the foreword to A Distant Mirror, a book on the 14th century, that because value and equivalency keep changing and are impossible to make definite at any one time, I advise the reader not to worry about the problem but simply to think of any given amount as so many pieces of money.

FINALLY, the problem of non-agreement among authorities: e.g., on the identity of the Dutch Admiral who, in a famous incident of the Anglo-Dutch wars of the 17th century, sailed up the Thames with a broom tied to his mast. The English historian Wingfield-Stratford says it was Tromp, while Professor Simon Schama, historian of the Netherlands, says the admiral was de Ruyter.

Or, the case of King George II as godfather to Admiral Rodney, so stated by Rodney’s biographer, David Hannay, while a second biographer, David Spinney, says that claim “is a myth.”

Or, the utter confusion surrounding the battle or battles of Finisterre in 1747. The naval historian Charles Lee Lewis deals bluntly with one aspect of the problem by saying other accounts “are all incorrect.” (That’s the spirit!) The confusion among historians arose in this case because there were several battles of Finisterre closely following each other, and there are two Finisterres, one in France and one, the true land’s end of Europe, in Spain.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!