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A Bourgeois Society?

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Part of the European History in Perspective book series (EUROHIP)

Abstract

It is generally accepted that the northern provinces of the Netherlands underwent an economic transformation which began sometime in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century and took off about a century later. This process was most marked in the maritime provinces, with Holland — of course — in the lead, but even the land provinces were also profoundly affected by the changes in the country as a whole. That economic developments on this scale inevitably had significant social consequences is not in dispute; what historians are not agreed on is the nature of the society which was created by these developments. By the late seventeenth century it seems clear that the first completely capitalist economy in history had emerged in the Republic but, oddly enough, there seems to be a near-consensus among historians that what would seem to be the indispensable social corollary of capitalism — the bourgeoisie — did not and indeed could not exist at this time in any meaningful sense.1 This debate aside, the question still remains whether the economic changes were far-reaching enough to produce new social formations and, if so, whether such a transformation was limited to the maritime provinces. It is clear that different regions of the Republic were affected in very different ways by the economic developments of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and it may well be that some social groups were more profoundly affected than others, but whether a new type of society emerged is more difficult to determine.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    A useful introduction to a complex and often confusing controversy can be found in Peter Burke, The language of orders in early modernEurope’, in M. L. Bush (ed.), Social Orders and Social Classes in Europe since 1500 (London, 1992 ), pp. 1–12.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Jan de Vries, The Dutch Rural Economy in the Golden Age ( New Haven, CT, 1974 ).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Jan Bieleman, Boeren op het Drentse zand 1600–1910 (Wageningen, 1987), pp. 665–9.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    De Vries and Van der Woude, The First Modern Economy pp. 507–21; and the evidence for North Holland in C.M. Lesger, Hoorn als stedelijk knooppunt. Stedensystemen tijdens de late middeleeuwen en vroegmoderne tijd (Hilversum, 1990), appendix F.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    J.L. van Zanden, The Rise and Decline of Holland’s Economy. Merchant Capitalism and the Labour Market (Manchester, 1993), pp. 39–40, 116.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    See Diederik Aten, Als het gewelt comt…’ Politiek en economie in Holland benoorden het If 1500–1800 (Hilversum, 1995), pp. 232–63, for examples from the Northern Quarter of Holland.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    E. Taverne, In’t land van belofte: in de nieue stadt. Ideaal en werkelijkheid van de stadsuitleg in de Republiek 1580–1680 (Marssen, 1978), ch. 5.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    J.L. Price, ‘A State Dedicated to War? The Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century’, in The Medieval Military Revolution, ed. Andrew Ayton and J.L. Price (London, 1995 ), p. 189.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    The most recent assessment of Dutch army size is in H.L. Zwitzer, ‘De Militie van den Staet’. Het leger van de Republiek der Verenigde Nederlanden (Amsterdam, 1991), bijlage 1.Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    Jaap R. Bruijn, The Dutch Navy of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries ( Columbia, SC, 1993 ), p. 131.Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    For interesting contributions to this subject in English, see Els Kloek et al. (eds): Women of the Golden Age. An International Debate on Women in Seventeenth-century Holland, England and Italy (Hilversum, 1994).Google Scholar
  12. 14.
    See the general coverage in O. Hufton, The Prospect before Her. A History of Women in Western Europe, vol.1,1500–1800 (London, 1995 ).Google Scholar
  13. 15.
    Lotte van de Pol, Het Amsterdams hoerdom. Prostitutie in de zeventiende en achttiende eeuw (Amsterdam, 1996).Google Scholar
  14. 16.
    Willem de Blécourt, Termen van toverij (Nijmegen, 1990) includes frequent references to the bewitching of milk and the like.Google Scholar
  15. 17.
    See the tentative conclusions in Els Kloek, Wie hij zij, man of wijf (Hilversum, 1990), pp. 57–66, 74–7.Google Scholar
  16. 18.
    A. Th. van Deursen, Plain Lives in a Golden Age (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 79.Google Scholar
  17. 20.
    For an overview, see J.L. Price, The Dutch Nobility in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries’, in H.M. Scott (ed.), The European Nobilities in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, vol. 1: Western Europe (London, 1995 ), pp. 82–113.Google Scholar
  18. 21.
    H.F.K. van Nierop, The Nobility of Holland: from Knights to Regents 1500–1650 (Cambridge, 1993).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© J. L. Price 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of HullUK

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