An unpredictable number of people should be interested in this lively and perceptive history of the Dutch nation, a history that is more an interpretation of events and forces than a marshalling of facts. The historian, recently at Harvard, and now in Rome, goes back to the formation of land areas before man -- and throughout, the geological and physical aspects of the Low Countries is shown as having great bearing on their history. He traces shifting of populations as Europe as we know it took form; of Roman expansion and disappearance; of the growth of political organization and the spread of Christianity; of the growth of large estates and the founding of a feudal system with its effect on society offset by the rise of communities of craftsmen. The Crusades -- the Hanseatic League etc. made the Low Countries a cross-roads, and with that came growing economic power, the rise of a strong nationalistic feeling, and expansion of knowledge and the arts. He traces its rise to a great power -- its lost opportunities -- its decline and rise again as a partiamentary monarchy. And in final chapters, he reveals internal splits along lines of religion, education etc. unsuspected by most outsiders, and briefly touches upon the war and its effect on cementing factions and intensifying nationalism.