The Golden Age of the Netherlands

Posted: August 29th, 2013

The Golden Age of the Netherlands

The golden age refers to the period between the 16th and 17th century during which the Dutch republic underwent an economic boom. The much-acclaimed success of the Dutch economy was fueled by the different forms of agriculture, an expansive maritime industry, trade, art and science that took place during that period. It all started in the south of Netherlands in the robust provinces of Flanders and Brabant. Before this unprecedented growth took place the Netherlands was under Spanish rule, under the Spanish ruler Philip the second. The Calvinist regents, the House of Orange, and his followers began a rebellion that would see the Netherlands liberated from Spain. There were serious disagreements regarding how the country would be governed. In the course of this rebellion, the Raadspensionaris, Johan Van Olden Barneveldt was arrested in 1618 and later executed in 1619.

The then prince of orange, Maurice, was supposed to assert control over his country but failed to do so, he later died in 1625. The war resumed in 1621, Spain did not make any progress after the war resumed, but the Dutch forces managed to occupy parts of Limburg, Flanders and Brabant. These parts of Netherlands remained in the control of Netherlands permanently until when there was an imminent invasion by Spain, which prompted the Emperor to give up his imperial cities to the French. During this period, Netherlands was made up of seven provinces that had signed the Utrecht Union, which had started the rebellion against the Spaniards, which led to war that would last for eighty years. It became to be known as the Eighty Years War. The Union of Utrecht continued with their rebellion until the signing of the Peace of Westphalia that ended the war and brought about independence and recognition of the Dutch Republic in 1648.

Netherlands was made up mostly by a protestant population, which made up most of the skilled artisans, rich merchants and scholars in the cities of Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges, which were the main port cities of the Netherlands. The great exodus to the north then started, with many of those who moved settling in Amsterdam, which was then a small port. By the year, 1630 Amsterdam had already attracted a large population largely made up of migrants from the south and non-natives who were fleeing persecution in Europe. This would set ground for a boom in the economy of Netherlands. Various factors aided in the boom, Amsterdam’s proximity to water enabled people to cultivate and conduct maritime trade. The presence of canals in the middle of Amsterdam provided a cheap source for energy to aid in making of ships that would revolutionize maritime trade across the world. The Dutch were excellent seamen, and thus they were able to make maps with thus change the face traveling in the high seas. It is in Amsterdam that the first corporation was formed which was made up by seafarers who each had invested in the ships .in the form of shares. This gave rise to a stock market, which enabled the traders to distribute the profits and share the losses if the ships and the goods were destroyed at sea. Due to brisk business, the bank of Amsterdam was established.

The Dutch were seasoned seafarers, and on their sea expeditions, they were able to travel everywhere to as far as Japan. They established a trading point near Nagasaki enabling them to trade with China. The Dutch dominated trade in Europe, trade with English colonies in North America had also flourished. The centre of this trade was its booming agricultural sector with products such as grain that were in high demand dairy farming which excelled due to the high altitude.The main purpose of the war was because of religious oppression by the Spaniards. Merchants were among the main driving forces of growth in Netherlands. The merchants had good incomes, and so this created different classes that were defined by their incomes. The noble class which was made up of scholars existed, but they were at par with the new class of largely made up of merchants and aristocrats each trying to fit into the nobility by purchasing land, houses, and entering into businesses they saw fit. The aristocrats and merchants intermarried, and their children to become affluent people in the society after attending universities and voyages across Europe that helped them acquire status in the society. However, even if the inequalities between the people were not that conspicuous, they were obvious between those who were able to make ends meet and those who lived on meager salaries by doing manual jobs.

Calvinism was the main religion of the Dutch people, but this did not represent unity amongst them as they still had existing differences due to issues such as differences in class. There was a lot of intellectual tolerance, which attracted scientists and thinkers alike. Hugo Gratius played a critical role in drafting international law. Art was also another attraction for people and wealth, because artists came to sell their work in Amsterdam and buyers as well came to look for the best bargains and the best paintings of that period. Art transformed people into socialites thus increasing the number of wealthy people.

The Dutch economy suffered a shock after the speculation of the tulip trade caused a stock market crash









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