Dutch Golden Age 1600 – 1700

The Dutch Golden Age was a period in Dutch history, roughly spanning the 17th century, in which Dutch trade, science, military, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world The first half is characterized by the Eighty Years’ War which ended in 1648 The Golden Age continued in peacetime during the Dutch Republic until the end of the century

The Netherlands’s transition from a possession of the Holy Roman Empire in the 1590s to the foremost maritime and economic power in the world has been called the “Dutch Miracle” by historian K W Swart

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In 1568, the Seven Provinces that later signed the Union of Utrecht (Dutch: Unie van Utrecht) started a rebellion against Philip II of Spain that led to the Eighty Years’ War Before the Low Countries could be completely reconquered, a war between England and Spain, the Anglo-Spanish War of 1585-1604, broke out, forcing Spanish troops to halt their advances and leaving them in control of the important trading cities of Bruges and Ghent, but without control of Antwerp, which was then arguably the most important port in the world Antwerp fell on August 17, 1585 after a siege, and the division between the Northern and Southern Netherlands (the latter mostly modern Belgium) was established

Under the terms of the surrender of Antwerp in 1585, the Protestant population (if unwilling to reconvert) were given four years to settle their affairs before leaving the city and Habsburg territory Similar arrangements were made in other places Protestants were especially well-represented among the skilled craftsmen and rich merchants of the port cities of Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp More moved to the north between 1585 and 1630 than Catholics moved in the other direction, although there were also many of these Many of those moving north settled in Amsterdam, transforming what was a small port into one of the most important ports and commercial centres in the world by 1630

In addition to the mass migration of natives from the Southern Netherlands, there were also significant influxes of non-native refugees who had previously fled from religious persecution, particularly Sephardi Jews from Portugal and Spain, and later Huguenots from France The Pilgrim Fathers also spent time there before their voyage to the New World

Ronald Findlay and Kevin H O’Rourke contribute part of the Dutch ascendancy to its Calvinistic ethic, which promoted thrift and education This contributed to “the lowest interest rates and the highest literacy rates in Europe The abundance of capital made it possible to maintain an impressive stock of wealth, embodied not only in the large fleet but in the plentiful stocks of an array of commodities that were used to stabilize prices and take advantage of profit opportunities”

Several other factors also contributed to the flowering of trade, industry, the arts and the sciences in the Netherlands during this time A necessary condition was a supply of cheap energy from windmills and from peat, easily transported by canal to the cities The invention of the windpowered sawmill enabled the construction of a massive fleet of ships for worldwide trading and for military defense of the republic’s economic interests