All About History
The Dutch Golden AGE Dos & don’ts “W
here else in the world can one enjoy all of the comforts of life and all the interesting things that a person might to find? What other country is there in which one enjoy such perfect freedom?” This is how French philosopher René Descartes described the Dutch Republic in 1631. During the 17th century, the Dutch enjoyed an era of prosperity in which business boomed and culture flourished.
Part of the reason for the Dutch Golden Age is that every other European power was preoccupied with the Thirty Years’ War, which lasted from
1618 to 1648. Instead, the Dutch Republic — also known as the United Provinces — had earned their independence from Spain in 1609, leaving the little nation on the North Sea free to dominate. They established a fleet of merchant ships and conquered a colonial empire that stretched across the
Americas, Africa and Asia. After the war, revived foreign competition curtailed Dutch expansion.
But the country had already amassed such wealth it remained an important power for years to come.
Where To Stay
While the Hague was the seat of power in the young Dutch Republic, the Golden Age was Amsterdam’s time to shine. The city emerged as a major trading port, leading the Dutch East India Company to establish the world’s first stock exchange in Amsterdam in 1602. Shipbuilding and textiles also became booming industries. This attracted new immigrants, both from the rural provinces and abroad, many fleeing persecution and war, such as Huguenots, Jews and Flemings. The city’s population more than doubled between
1600 and 1630, going from
59,551 to 135,439.
This led to the building of the city’s famous canals as the authorities launched a series of expansions and renovations to accommodate all of the new people. Practise your religion.
The era is famed for its religious tolerance, with the Republic providing sanctuary for persecuted Jews and Anabaptists. However, Calvinists still dominated and public practise of Catholicism was illegal.
Build a windmill.
The iconic Dutch windmill took off in the 17th century, with over 10,000 dotted across the Netherlands. The city walls of Amsterdam were even crowned with a row of them.
Try the herring.
While ships bring back exotic colonial goods, the trading companies are built on North Sea herring. Readily available wherever you go, the seafood is an emblem of national pride.
Splurge on tulip bulbs.
From 1633, ‘Tulip Mania’ saw speculators trade the flowers’ bulbs for extraordinary sums of money — the most expensive selling for the price of a well-appointed house. However, this spending frenzy couldn’t last and the market collapsed unexpectedly in 1637.
Cross the city watch.
A voluntary militia guards the city gates, polices the streets and puts out fires. Companies are grouped by district and the weapon that they used: bow, crossbow or gun.
It’s a contradiction of the age that while the newly rich merchants enjoyed flashing their cash, out of religious devotion they always dressed humbly in black with broad hats and their wives wore bonnets.