At the beginning of the nineteenth century the Netherlands lagged behind intellectually when compared with the surrounding countries. This was especially true in the field of natural history. If we wish to understand the reasons for this backwardness we must remember that during the second half of the eighteenth century the neighbouring countries had started to build and maintain an active trade, whilst the Dutch merchants had secured their capital by investing in those countries, especially in England. The fast decline of our trade with the colonies was one of the consequences of this development.