Making the Dutch Early Modern Economy
Making the Dutch Early Modern Economy

Exporting Empire, 1600-1800: Making the Dutch Early Modern Economy

1 September 2022 until 1 September 2026
Project type

This project answers the question: why was Dutch industry (nijverheid and trafieken) able to grow despite the overall decline of the Dutch economy after the 1670s? It answers this question by looking at the mostly neglected role of industry in the creation of value and at industry’s role in shaping economic policy. Previous scholarship has concentrated on the economic role of merchants from the ‘sea provinces’ (Holland, Zeeland, and to some extent Friesland). This project challenges the merchant-centric and Holland-centric approach by underlining the importance of the industrial heartland of the Dutch Republic in the ‘land provinces’. Without kettles, soap, and other goods produced by Dutch industry (nijverheid), merchants would not have been able to gain access to the barter trade in colonial commodities and the African slave market. Moreover, the colonial materials that merchants brought to the Dutch Republic, could not be re-exported to the European market without the Dutch processing industry (trafieken). European and colonial trade were intimately intertwined, and it was industry that connected the two.

By centralizing industry, the project challenges the idea that merchants defined the Dutch economic boom and argues that it was industry that created economic value. Moreover, studying industry’s role in creating and shaping rules and regulations highlights the importance of non-elites for the making of economic policy for the Dutch Republic and abroad. Petitions (requesten) are a unique medium to illuminate industry’s role in influencing economic policy. They offer the opportunity to identify the individuals involved in influencing policy and are particularly useful to study economic actors that did not leave their own (business) archive. Producers and processors are a case in point. This project studies how industry made the Dutch economic “Golden Age”.


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