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3.5 The Dutch Golden Age

5 min readdecember 21, 2022

K

Krish Gupta

Catherine Brown

Catherine Brown


AP European History 🇪🇺

335 resources
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The Dutch Republic

One of the key factors that contributed to the Dutch Golden Age was the country's strategic location. The Netherlands is a small, low-lying country located at the crossroads of Europe, and this gave it a unique advantage as a trading and transportation hub. The Dutch had a strong navy, and they were able to control the shipping routes through the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, which allowed them to establish a lucrative trade network that stretched across Europe and beyond.
Another important factor in the Dutch Golden Age was the country's political and economic system. The Netherlands was a republic, and this meant that the government was not controlled by a single ruler or ruling family. Instead, the country was divided into a number of independent provinces, each with its own government and laws. This system allowed for a great degree of freedom and democracy, and it contributed to the country's prosperity and cultural flourishing.
The Dutch Republic defied the pattern of absolutist, centralized control that dominated other European nations during the 17th century. Spain ruled the Netherlands when Holy Roman Emperor Charles V inherited the Spanish throne in 1516, beginning Habsburg rule in Spain. In 1566, the Netherlands revolted against Spanish rule, officially becoming the independent Dutch Republic in 1648.
The Seven Northern Dutch provinces signed the Union of Utrecht, creating a defensive alliance against the Spanish, but they were politically independent with no absolute ruler. Instead, the States General was the legislative body, which was made up of nobles. Thus, the Dutch Republic was really more of an oligarchy, with power concentrated in the hands of wealthy merchants. 
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Calvinism in the Dutch Republic

After the split from Catholic Spain, Calvinism became the dominant religion. Religious tolerance and freedom of religion for Catholics, Lutherans, Anabaptist and Jews helped the Dutch avoid the internal religious conflicts of other European nations and contributed to commercial economic growth.

Dutch Economy

In the 17th century, the Dutch Republic was the leading commercial power in Europe, with Amsterdam serving as Europe’s financial center. The Dutch had the largest fleet in the world with 10,000 ships, and they replaced the Italians as the premier bankers of Europe, with the Amsterdam Public Bank attracting foreign merchants who could use bills of exchange as currency.
Finally, with the dominance of shipbuilding and its massive fleet, the Dutch formed the Dutch East India Trading Company, which displaced the Portuguese in control of the East India spice trade and proved to be stiff competition for the English East India Company. Dutch painting reflected the Republic’s wealth as well as its tolerance. Portraits by painters such as Jan Vermeer portrayed middle-class families, popular commodities and seascapes. 
In the second half of the 17th century, England emerged as the dominant commercial power, and the Dutch Republic gradually declined. Wars against England and France drained the Dutch economy, and the Dutch West India Company failed to take control of Brazil from Portugal.
The Dutch Golden Age was also characterized by a strong and influential merchant class. The Dutch were known for their expertise in finance, and they were able to use this to their advantage in their trade and mercantile activities. They were able to secure lucrative trade deals with other countries, and they were also able to invest in new technologies and innovations that helped to drive the country's economic growth.
The arts also played a significant role in the Dutch Golden Age. The Netherlands was home to a number of talented artists and writers, and the country's prosperity allowed for a flourishing arts scene. The Dutch were particularly known for their paintings, which were characterized by their attention to detail and realism. Some of the most famous Dutch painters of this period include Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Hals.
The Dutch Golden Age was also marked by a number of scientific and intellectual achievements. The Netherlands was home to a number of important scientists and philosophers, and the country was at the forefront of the scientific revolution that took place during this period. Some of the most notable figures of this period include mathematician and philosopher René Descartes and scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, who made important contributions to the fields of mathematics and biology, respectively.
Despite its many achievements, the Dutch Golden Age was not without its challenges. The country was frequently at war with other European powers, and it was also hit by a number of economic crises. However, these challenges did not diminish the country's overall prosperity and cultural achievements, and the Dutch Golden Age remains an important period in European history.
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Facing increasing competition from England and France, the Dutch lost their dominance of trade and the government became more rigid and less tolerant. England stabilized under constitutionalism after the Glorious Revolution, and France stabilized under the absolutist control of Louis XIV, allowing these nations to emerge as world leaders.

Effects of The Dutch Golden Age

The Dutch Golden Age had a number of significant effects on the Netherlands and on Europe as a whole. Some of the most notable effects of this period include:
  1. Economic prosperity: The Dutch Golden Age was a time of great economic prosperity for the Netherlands. The country's strategic location and strong navy allowed it to establish a lucrative trade network that stretched across Europe and beyond. This economic growth led to an increase in wealth and a rise in the standard of living for many Dutch people.
  2. Cultural flourishing: The Dutch Golden Age was also a time of great cultural flourishing. The country was home to a number of talented artists and writers, and the prosperity of the period allowed for a flourishing arts scene. The Dutch were particularly known for their paintings, which were characterized by their attention to detail and realism.
  3. Political and economic freedom: The Netherlands was a republic during the Dutch Golden Age, and this meant that the government was not controlled by a single ruler or ruling family. Instead, the country was divided into a number of independent provinces, each with its own government and laws. This system allowed for a great degree of freedom and democracy, and it contributed to the country's prosperity and cultural flourishing.
  4. Scientific and intellectual achievements: The Dutch Golden Age was also marked by a number of scientific and intellectual achievements. The Netherlands was home to a number of important scientists and philosophers, and the country was at the forefront of the scientific revolution that took place during this period. Some of the most notable figures of this period include mathematician and philosopher René Descartes and scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek.
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