'The Dutch and the French'
Written account of 'Hollandais et Français' ['The Dutch and the French'], a lecture given by the Dutch professor of Romance languages Jean-Jacques Salverda de Grave at the Alliance Française society in The Hague in 1915. The lecture was published in La Revue de Hollande in January 1916. To read the original essay, please click on the source above.
The war was commonly interpreted as a clash of cultures and a conflict between races. All belligerent nations propagated the idea of racial and cultural kinship, in order to force neutral states to join their side. Neutral intellectuals felt compelled to rethink the cultural and racial relationships between their nation and the belligerents.
As a fervent anti-German, Dutch intellectual and a profound Francophile, the Dutch professor Salverda de Grave published several articles on the alleged intellectual and psychological similarities between the French and the Dutch. He stressed the multiple historical and cultural exchanges between the two nations, while also focusing on Dutch-French mental affinities, such as their shared respect for freedom of the individual and their allegiance to democracy and reason. These characteristics distinguished these nations from the Germans. He defined the shared characteristics as 'mental categories' and not as 'racial categories', for it was clear to him that, on a racial level, the Dutch and Germans had more in common. Nonetheless, since he presented these mental affinities more or less as 'natural' or 'congenital' characteristics of the Dutch and the French, the lines between intellectual and biological differences blurred.
From the outbreak of war, Salverda de Grave played a major role in official French propaganda. In 1916, he was a co-founder of the secretly French-sponsored cultural society 'The Netherlands-France', where cultural and mental affinities between the Dutch and the French were explored further and deepened.