A Land of Traders
If ever an historical cliché was true, it is that trade was the lifeblood of the Dutch Republic. The tiny country on the North Sea achieved its astounding prosperity and strength because during most of the seventeenth century it dominated the shipping and commerce of Europe. Almost every other kind of economic activity was ultimately dependent upon trade: farmers who grew crops to feed an urban population or to make products for sale abroad; financiers who served the credit needs of traders; the providers of goods and services in the cities who catered to their physical needs and their conveniences; and even the governing class, or “regents,” who became more and more separated from the commercial classes but nonetheless knew full well that their function was to protect and advance the interests of merchants and shippers. The “mother trade,” as the Dutch called it, was commerce and shipping to the Baltic, in which the Hollanders had almost completely replaced the once-mighty Hanseatic towns of Germany. From the Baltic the Dutch brought cereal grains to supply their own needs for bread-stuffs which the local countryside could not provide adequately, and also to supply the needs of other lands where local supplies were in chronic shortage, as in Spain, or of other countries struck by bad harvests.
KeywordsSeventeenth Century Slave Trade East India Company Naval Store Dutch Republic
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.