The Dutch Republic


Justus D. Doenecke

Professor Emeritus of History

New College of Florida.


If one looked at Europe in the 17th century,

            one would find on a northwestern corner of the European continent a nation of some

                        3 million people that could well have been the wealthiest country,

                                    certainly of Europe

            It was the greatest industrial nation of Europe

            It was the richest commercial nation of Europe

            Its exchange was the leading trading mart of the world

            Its bank dictated the currency values of the world

            Its empire stretched from Java to the Hudson River 

And in a sense nothing could be more surprising,

            for this nation--

                        known as the United Provinces of the Netherlands--

                                    had just been through a very bloody revolt against Spain

And to appreciate what one can call the Dutch miracle,

                        one has to know just a bit about the Dutch revolt

For centuries,

            the Netherlands or Low Countries roughly were comprised of what we today call

                        the Benelux nations--

                        that is the modern kingdoms of the Netherlands and Belgium

                                    and the grand duchy of Luxembourg

            And for these centuries neither a Dutch nor a Belgian nationality existed

                        In the 11 northern provinces,

                                    the people spoke German dialects,

                                                which evolved into the Dutch language

                                    The word Dutch itself comes from the Dutch word Duits, 

                                                meaning "of the people"

                        In the 6 southern provinces, the people spoke French dialects

            But neither here nor elsewhere in Europe did the language boundaries have anything

                        to do with political borders    

            The Netherlands consisted of 17 provinces

                        But the northern provinces felt no tie with each other,

                                    no sense of difference from the southern provinces

                        Each was a state or country unto itself

                        Holland originally was one province among these 17

                        Only later was Holland used informally for the entire nation

            By the 15th century,

                        one by one,                 

                                    they had been inherited or purchased or conquered by the dukes of


                                                            an area between today's France and Switzerland 

            In 1477 Duchess Mary of Burgundy married Maximilian I

                        Maximilian is emperor of Europe's most powerful dynasty, 

                                    the House of Hapsburg

                        The Hapsburgs ruled the Holy Roman Empire,

                                    a jerrybuilt structure that had Germany at its core

                        Maximilian and Mary produced a son, Emperor Charles V (1500-58)

                        The portrait you see here of Charles (1548) is by the Venetian painter Titian

                                                (c. 1490-1576) 

                                    It's hanging in Munich gallery, the Alte Pinakotek

                                    It shows him aging,

                                                afflicted with gout

            Charles is of the Hapsburg dynasty

                        He himself had been born in the Netherlands,

                                    in the city of Ghent

            As long as Charles ruled,

                        the Dutch could exercise a good deal of local autonomy,

                                    that is they had much self government

                        The Dutch nobles controlled the countryside

                        The Dutch merchants controlled the cities

            In other words, Charles ruled with a relatively gentle hand

But once Charles split his empire,

            which he did in 1556,

                        and once he gave the Dutch portion of it to his son Philip II (1527-98),

                                    trouble began

            Here is a portrait, again by Titian

            It's located in Madrid's Prado (1551)

            Philip was the most powerful prince in Europe

            He headquartered his branch of the Hapsburgs in Spain 

                        He saw himself as a Spaniard

                        He always spoke Spanish 

                        And unlike his father,

                                    he was ignorant of the 2 main languages of the Netherlands--

                                                Dutch and French

            And Philip looked at the Netherlands in two ways

            First, the Netherlands was a great cash cow for Philip,

                                    who lived primarily in Spain

                        They were the richest jewel in the imperial crown

                        They were the source of 2/5 of the enormous revenue Philip needed to

                                    fight his many expensive wars

                        Indeed, Philip spent so much that he declared bankruptcy 3 times

            Second, in Philip's eyes,

                        the Netherlands housed a religious 5th column,

                                    a growing Protestant movement centering around the teachings of

                                                John Calvin (1509-64)

                        Calvinism is very similar to Lutheranism,

                                    but with more of a theological system

                                                and with more religious involvement in secular society

                        Calvinism had first been brought into the southern part of the Netherlands,

                                    that is to such cities as Tournai and Antwerp,

                                                brought in by French-speaking Huguenots

                        It then moved into the cities of the northern Netherlands,

                                    where it mixed with Anabaptists already there    

                        Philip was a militant Roman Catholic

                        He desired nothing more than to stamp out what he saw as rank heresy

Now Philip soon does certain things that maximize his unpopularity   

            Some of Philip's actions were religious

                        Philip brings the Inquisition into the Netherlands

                        Hence special courts are established to try heretics,

                                    to execute heretics

                        The Inquisition was so hated that even the city council of Bruges,

                                    all of whose members were Catholics,

                                                denounced the leading inquisitor

                        Philip transferred positions in the Roman Catholic church from Dutch nobles

                                    to Spanish officials

                        The majority of Dutch people were not yet Protestant

                        Most of the Dutch nobles were not yet Protestant

                        But all classes resented what they saw as foreign interference

            Other actions of Philip were political

                        Philip took away the local autonomy that Charles V had permitted

                                    That is, he exercised direct rule from Spain 

                                    Spanish officials came in to rule the country directly

                                    Philip made his half sister Margaret of Parma (1522-86) regent of

                                                the Netherlands [Parma: area in northern Italy]

                                    Hence the Dutch perceive the Spaniards as a hostile occupying power        

                        Philip also levied backbreaking taxes

                                    He knows the Netherlands are prosperous

                                    He sees them as vital to Spain's prosperity

                                    So he wants to bleed this nation dry

                                    In a sense Philip wants to Dutch to pay for their own occupation

Therefore from 1672 to 1609,

                        the Dutch fought a very bloody war of rebellion                              

            Heading the Spanish armies was the Duke of Alva or Alba (1508-1582),

                                    who had long called for a crackdown on the Dutch,

                                    who came accompanied by an army of 10,000 men in 1567

                        Alva a figure straight out of the world of El Greco

                                    He's straight, tall, thin,

                                                with dark eyes, yellow skin, silver beard

                        He's 59 years old when he goes to the Netherlands

                        Alva was given dictatorial powers and he used them

                                    In 1567 he established what the Dutch called the Council of Blood to

                                                root out religious heretics and political rebels

                                    Within 1567 and 1573,

                                                the council tried over 12,000 people      

                                    Of these 12,000, 9,000 lost some or all of their property

                                    Over 1100 were executed

                        Alva also raised taxes ever further--

                                    1% on all real or personal properly,

                                    5% on the sale of landed property,

                                    10% on the sale of all movable goods

                        Heading the Dutch nationalists was William of Orange (1533-1584)

                                    According to Marvin O'Connell's study of the counter-reformation

                                    (The Counter Reformation, 1559-1610-- 1974),

                                                William was religiously tolerant as no other public man of his time  

                                    William had been born a Lutheran, in Germany by the way

                                    He was raised a Catholic

                                    He became a Lutheran again

                                    He ended up a Calvinist

                                    Here we have a painting of William of Orange (c. 1588) by Adriaan Key    

                                                It's located in Amsterdam's Reijksmuseum

                                                Key (1544-1589) lived in Antwerp at the time he painted

                                                            this portrait

                                                So did William himself

                                                So it's likely William sat for this

                                                It's the portrait of a troubled man

                                                And we'll see that William has reason to be troubled            

                                    William is tall, athletic, eloquent, courteous

                                    He's no great military strategist but he's able in politics

                                    He has persistence

                                    He is courageous        

                                    He had first gotten along with Philip

                                                Indeed he had named a son Philip William

                                    It's Alva that turns William into a rebel

Now this war involves tremendous bloodshed,

                        tremendous destruction

            You had anarchy

            You had revolution

            You had civil war

            Protestants seized Roman Catholic churches and turned them into Calvinist ones

                        Catholic land was taken

                        Even gold and silver plate was seized

            Dutch nationalists flooded the area of Alkmaar (Alek-mahr) to guard Amsterdam

                        so the Spanish army could not operate there [1573]

            Conversely the Spaniards massacred the inhabitants of two towns,

                                    Zutphen and Naarden  [1572]

                        They killed all the Dutch soldiers in the town of Haarlem                

            Unpaid Spanish troops rioted in Antwerp [1576],

                        looting and pillaging and stealing on a massive scale in the wealthiest urban

                                    trade center in Europe

            Professor Andrew Fix, in his lectures for the Teaching Company,   

                        calls Antwerp one of the worst atrocities of the 16th century

                        ("The Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Rise of Nations"-- 2005)

            In 1584 a religious fanatic killed William of Orange

William himself had been in a bind

            He wanted to unite all the Dutch people

                        If you're Protestant,

                                    if you're Catholic,

                                                it doesn't matter

                        Spain is the real enemy

                        Get the Spaniards off our backs

            William wanted a broad nationalist consensus,

                        a kind of popular front

            Before he converted to Calvinism, he said:

                        "I am no Calvinist but it seems to me neither right,

                                    nor worthy of a Christian,

                                    to seek for the sake of religious differences to have this land swarming

                                                with troops and inundated with blood

                         There must be a compromise"

            He proclaimed religious freedom for Catholics as soon as his troops took a territory

            But his leading naval force, the so-called Sea Beggars,

                        and many of his troops, the so-called Wild Beggars, were militant Calvinists

            Protestants murdered Catholic clergy in several cities,

                        including Ghent  

            They ousted Catholic magistrates in such cities as Ghent (1577) and Amsterdam (1578)

            All this puts William in a bind

            If William wanted to maximize his military strength,

                        he needs the militant Protestant armies but he antagonizes the Catholics

            If William wanted to create a political consensus,

                        he needs the Catholics but antagonizes the militant Calvinist Protestants

            He tried to be as comprehensive as he could

                        He was so quiet about the reasons for his conversion to Calvinism he was given

                                                the nickname William the Silent

The Spanish finally adopted the strategy of breaking up the Dutch coalition

            They appeased the southern provinces which were more Catholic 

                        and which often spoke French, not Dutch    

            Here the aristocracy still saw itself as ruling over a feudal area

                        It was far less nationalistically oriented 

By what was called the Union of  Arras (Ar-ah) of 1579,

                                    the southern provinces gave their allegiance to the Spanish Hapsburgs

                        They agreed to make Catholicism the official religion

                        In return they received much political autonomy

                        And they had their taxes reduced

            Henceforth this southern region was called the Spanish Netherlands

                        In 1713 it was transferred to Austria

                        In 1830 it became the independent nation of Belgium


                                    Even now half the population of Belgium are Flemish,

                                                of German stock close to the Dutch

                                    Antwerp, for example, is a Flemish town

                                                Bruges is a Flemish town

                                                Ghent is a Flemish town        

                                    The other half of this area is Walloon

                                                People there speak French

                                                Brussels is am example of a Walloon town

                        Look at Belgian postage stamps

                                    You'll see the nation is bilingual 

It is in response to the Union of Arras that the 7 northern provinces formed a military alliance,

                        the Union of Utrecht or Atrecht (Oot-rect) in 1579

            This union was modeled on the Swiss confederation

            Each province gave up powers concerning war and defense to a central body

            Each of the 7 provinces had considerable autonomy in all other matters

            The opening statement of the Union  said,

                        "The people are not created by God for the sake of the Prince...

                                    but, on the contrary, the Prince was made for the good of the people"

            Each province also had the power to decide the religious question for itself  

            What was the result?

                        Each of the 7 provinces banned Roman Catholic worship

                        William of Orange was opposed to this

                        He saw this action as terribly divisive, 

                                    as burning bridges

            He waited 4 months before signing on himself

Now in 1581 this Union of Utrecht formed a brand new country,

                        the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands

                        or more simply the United Provinces of the Netherlands

            So the Netherlands were divided

                        There was a rebellious north

                        There was a Spanish-controlled south

                        The big rivers of the area divided the 2 nations

                        Many Calvinists in the south moved north so the south--

                                    that is the modern Belgium--

                                                became solidly Catholic

                        At the same time,

                                    the United Provinces were not a totally Protestant people

                         Probably as many as 1/3 remained Catholic

Fighting still continued for close to 20 years

            But Spain bit off more than it could chew

            It took on the British who were raiding their shipping

                        and who were encouraging the Dutch rebels

            But in 1588 the British defeated the Spanish Armada

                        This defeat ended Philip's dream of bringing northern Europe back into the

                                    Catholic fold

                        But for the Dutch things were still uneasy

                        For Spain could not be dislodged from the southern Netherlands

So in 1609 a military truce was declared

            As a result of this truce,

                        the United Provinces received de facto independence

            Holland was never again threatened by Spanish armies

            In 1618 war broke out again,

                                    but on far less a scale

            In 1648, at the end of the 30 Years War,

                                    the  independence of the United Provinces was recognized by treaty

                        The agreement was called the Treaty of Munster

During all this time,

                        the United Provinces became a republic

            Indeed it was the first republic of any major nation in Europe

            But the Dutch had not planned it this way

            The move was strictly by accident

            Indeed we have a kind of accidental republic

            Now as the United Provinces had broken from Spain,

                        had refused to recognize Philip II as monarch,

                                    it sought a monarch for-- after all--

                                                all governments were headed by monarchs

                        It asked the Austrian archduke, one Mattias, to take over

                                    Mattias accepted

                                    But once he arrived in Holland,

                                                he found himself unacceptable to the population

                        The United Provinces then asked a Frenchman,

                                                François, Duke of Anjou        

                                    But it was soon apparent he did not have the ability

                        It even asked Queen Elizabeth of England to be the Dutch queen

                                    But she already headed a powerful Protestant nation           

                        She did not want to get entangled on the continent

So this new nation drifted into republic status

            And like many modern republics,

                                    there is a division of power

                        There are checks and balances

            There is an assembly, a legislative branch, called the States General 

                        It met in the Hague,

                                    which was the de facto capital of this new republic

                        The States General is made up of deputies chosen

                        by the local assemblies of the 7 provinces

            These local assemblies are called Provincial States

                        And these deputies get orders from the Provincial States on just how they should

                                    vote in the States General

                        Indeed, every time a new issue arose in the States General,

                                    the deputies had to go home to the Provincial States for instructions

                        One is not empowered to vote one's conscience

                        One takes orders from the local elites

            There is also an executive branch,

                                    composed of 2 offices

                        First is called the Grand Pensioner  

                                    First the Grand Pensioner was lawyer and adviser to the States

                                    Later he became leader of States General

                                    The Grand Pensioner is the de facto prime minister

                                    He is in charge of the government

                                    And he is always an educated, middle class professional,

                                                that is a lawyer or a scholar

                                    And he represents a distinct economic group in Holland,

                                                the city governments, the middle class commercial leaders

                        The second office is that of the Stadtholders-- plural  

                                    For there is no stadtholder for the United Provinces as a whole

                                    Each province has its own executive,

                                                its own elected stadtholder                            

                                    The holder of this office commands the province's military forces               

                                    The post evolved from the office of the Spanish governor of the


                                    But most provinces usually elected the same man as stadtholder

                                    This man is usually the head of the House of Orange

                                                William of Orange had been a stadtholder,

                                                            but only for 2 provinces--

                                                                        Holland and Zeeland

                                    William's son, Prince Maurice of Nassau (1567-1625; Nah-sow),   

                                                            was the big stadtholder from 1584 to 1625 

                                                During much of this time,

                                                            he commanded Dutch armies against Spain

                                    William III (1650-1702), who became king of England in 1688,

                                                had been a stadtholder

                                    Now in contrast to the Grand Pensioner,

                                                who represented the cities,

                                                            the stadtholder represented the nobles

                                                He represented the rural areas

                        Jonathan Israel,

                                    in his massive book The Dutch Republic;

                                                Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477-1806 (1995),

                                                            shows something of the complexity of this office

Now given the different constituencies of the two offices,

                        you almost have a situation similar to that of political parties

            There is a unique balance in this government

            Power is always shifting back and forth

            For a while, one office would be dominant

                        Then the other office would be the more important

            And remember the Grand Pensioner represented the merchants, commerce;

                        the Stadtholder the nobles, large estates, agriculture

            But one element does not grow at the expense of the other

            The nobles tended to seek the renewal of war with Spain

                        Historically nobles in Europe are a warrior class

            The urban merchants are more likely to want to bury the hatchet with Spain

                        They want peace

                        Why? Because they believe peace is needed for trade, for industry             

Now one great earmark of the Dutch republic is the fabulous economic boom,

                        one based on shipping

            As early as 1600 the Dutch had 10,000 ships

            By 1620 Amsterdam is the busiest port in all Europe

            Throughout most of the 17th century,

                        they owned most of the shipping of Western Europe

            They sailed on every sea

            They explored the waters around Spitzenberg at the top of Norway

            They almost monopolized Arctic whaling

            They would enter the Pacific by way of South America

            They would round Cape Horn,                      

                        which by the way is named after the Dutch port of Hoorn just north of Amsterdam

            In 1602 they organized the East India Company

            In 1919 they founded the city of Batavia in Java,

                        now the city of Jakarta

            Not long after 1600 they reached Japan

            In 1912 they founded their first settlement on Manhattan Island

                        I grew up in Brooklyn-- itself a Dutch name--

                                    with reminders of the Dutch everywhere in greater New York:

                                                New Utrecht, Flatbush, Flushing, the Bronx,

                                                            Stuyvesant High School

            They were also Dutch colonies at Bahia in Brazil,

                        at Curacao in the Caribbean,

                        at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa

            It's little wonder that the Dutch play a major role in geography

                        They are cartographers, navigators

                        They make nautical instruments

            Look at Vermeer's painting The Geographer             (c.1668) (1632-1675)  (ver-mayr)

                        It's in the major art gallery of Frankfurt

                        Robert Palmer in his History of Modern World (9th ed.; 2002) tells us to

                                    take a good look at this painting

                        You've got an immaculately scrubbed and dusted Dutch interior characteristic

                                    of Vermeers' stress on purity,

                                                on a sense of calm

                        But you also have nothing less than a symbol of the modern world in its youth

                        There is the pale northern sunlight streaming through the window

                        There's the globe, the map

                        There are the dividers in the right hand

                        There is the cross square used to measure the elevation of the sun and stars

                        There is the sea chart on the wall

                        There is what could be a tapestry flung over the table or is it an Oriental rug

                                    brought in from  the east

                        There is the geographer's head lifted up in thought,

                                    his eyes resting on an invisible world of fresh discoveries,

                                                of opening horizons

            Look also Vermeer's The Astronomer (c.1668), a companion piece

                        It's in the Louvre                    

                        The painting shows a celestial globe and this globe is quite accurate

                        This work too reveals the limitless scope of Dutch inquiry,

                                    moreover the whole scientific impulse found in the early modern period

This shipping boom is fostered by control of the carrying trade and the Baltic trade

            The Dutch dominated the cargo trade

                        That is, they were most successful in carrying the goods of other nations

                                    in Dutch ships

                        Half of Europe's trade was carried in Dutch freighters

                        The English author Daniel Defoe said the Dutch were-- and I quote--

                                    "the waggoners of the waves,

                                                the carryers of the world,

                                                the middle person in trade...

                                     They buy to sell again,

                                                take in to send out"

                        And the Dutch were able to do this because they had very low freight rates

                        And they had low freight rates because they designed a special new kind of ship, the fluyt

                        The fluyt is a huge tub-like vessel that has a large hull

                                    Hence it can contain much freight

                        But the rigging system of the fluyt is very simple and deck is very narrow,

                                    very small

                        So you don't need a large crew to sail the boat

                                    You are cutting crew costs

                                    At the same time,

                                                you are maximizing the amount of freight to be carried

                        And when your crew runs away in a foreign port,

                                    as it is likely to do as it had been Shanghaied in the first place,

                                                you can easily bring another crew on

                        Also the fluyt is small enough so it can go long distances without putting in to


            The Dutch also monopolized the Baltic grain trade

                        Massive amounts of grain is produced in such eastern European regions as the


                        Once this grain reaches the Baltic Sea,

                                     Dutch vessels would carry this grain to such nations as France       

                        But this grain would not reach France immediately

                                     Rather it would be stored in such ports as Amsterdam

                        If you ever visit Amsterdam,

                                    you notice 2 things

                        First, the many canals there are wide enough to give ships access to the

                                    center of the city

                        Second, there are narrow high buildings on these canals that serve as warehouses

                                    The Dutch would store this grain in the warehouse

                                    They would let the price of this grain grow higher and higher

                                    Finally the price would be high enough for the Dutch to make a tidy profit

And the Dutch take this money and they go into banking

            In 1609 they found the Bank of Amsterdam 

            They found it at a time when European money is in chaos

            There were a lot of different coins throughout Europe

                        The great monarchs of Europe minted coins

                        Small states in Germany and Italy minted coins

                        Even private persons minted coins

            But, under inflationary pressures,

                                    many of these people debased their coins

                        That is, they added more alloy while still leaving the old coins in circulation

            Therefore, anyone handling money would get a mass of coins whose value was


            Now what the Bank of Amsterdam does is accept deposits of all these coins from all

                        these peoples and all these countries 

            It would assess their gold and silver content in all these coins

            It would allow depositors to withdraw equivalent values in gold florins minted by the

                        Bank of Amsterdam

                                    for the Dutch florin had an unchanging weight and purity

            Thus Dutch currency became sought after everywhere

                        It was an international measure of value  

And of course there is a capitalist ethos everywhere 

            The philosopher René Descartes wrote,

                        "Every man thinks only of himself and his business interests,

                                    and whoever has nothing to do with business and completely


            When the British Ambassador, Sir William Temple,

                                    reported on his visit to the Hague in 1668, he said:

            "The merchants and tradesmen are of mighty industry

              Never any country traded so much and consumed so little

              They buy infinitely, but 'tis to sell again

            They are the great masters of Indian spices and Persian silks,

                        but wear plain woolen and feed upon their own fish and roots

              They sell the finest of their cloth to Europe and buy coarse out of England for their own wear   


               They send abroad the best of their own butter and buy the cheapest out of Ireland for

                        their own use

               They furnish infinite luxury which they never practice,

                                    and traffic in pleasures which they never taste"

            And Temple notes the capitalist ethos involved here

                        "Their common riches," he writes, "lie in every man's spending less than he has

                                    coming in"

                        Not only did their frugality,

                                    their asceticism exclude any idle indulgence

                        Temple writes, "the general intention every man has upon his business" appears

                                    to leave the Dutch no time for love

                        Temple says of the Dutch,

                                  "Their tempers are not airy enough for joy nor warm enough for love

                                    This [love] is talked of sometimes among the younger men,

                                                but as a thing they have heard of,

                                                            rather than felt

                                    I have known some that impersonated lovers well enough,

                                                but none that I ever thought were at heart in love"   

            Temple sums up his observations by saying,

                       "Out of such a nation can come neither good conversation nor great statesmanship"

There is another way of getting at this ethos--

                        Rembrandt's Masters of the Cloth Hall (1662)

            It's in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

            Robert Palmer analyses this work too

            Here you have a group of men who are about to speak from the canvas      

            They are inclined slightly forward

            They appear as intent on their business as a courtroom judge would be concerning a hearing

            They are stern

            They have the look of intelligence

            But they are not entrepreneurial hucksters

            They are calculating but not cunning

            They are determined to drive a hard bargain but are honest

            And I think one can say that it is men of this kind who conducted the commerce and government of Holland 

            And note their sober black cloaks and their clean white collars

            Note how these are set against the finely carved woodwork and the rich table-covering of the cloth hall

            What is this work saying?

                        Is it not saying that personal vanity must yield to collective undertakings,

                                    that personal simplicity must be maintained in the midst of material opulence

But all this does not mean that the Dutch businessman lacked enjoyment in their everyday life

            Look at the families of the merchant class


            They tended to spoil their children,

                        at least it seemed so to the less indulgent French,

                                    for there was no corporal punishment at home or in school

            Their adolescent daughters appeared to be saucy

            Their wives seemed independent and self-assured

                        They were often well-heeled in their own right

            These families treated their servants amiably

            And their houses reflected an individualistic spirit

                        If the Florentine merchant princes erected places,       

                                    and if the German millionaires erected cluttered townhouses,

                                    the Dutch patroon built a more modest but comfortable dwelling

                        At the beginning of the 17th century,

                                                not much had changed from the middle ages

                                    You have a few tables

                                    You have  cupboards

                                    You have a linen closet

                                    You have several beds built into the walls

                                    You have a desk

                        But, as the century went on,

                                                some luxuries are introduced

                                    The decor becomes more refined

                                    Walls are covered with tapestries,

                                                with gilded leather

                                    Satins come in

                                                So do rugs

                                                So do porcelains

                        Houses became full of pictures

                                    In the brief essay on your CD disk "Art in History, History in Art,"

                                                David Freedberg and Jan de Vries note that those of the highest

                                                            income averaged 41 paintings per household

                                                Those of the lowest income average 7 per household

                                                You can see the difference by looking at two pictures of Pieter de Hooch


                                    In 1560 he paints very clean simple interiors

                                                This work is titled A Woman Drinking with Two Men

                                                It's in the Louvre

                                    Within a few years the interiors are very elaborate

                                                Here we have another work by de Hooch

                                                It's called The Card Players (c. 1664)

                                                It's also in the Louvre

                                                Here's where you start getting the gold Spanish leather on the walls

                        But there is one thing about the house of any Dutch merchant

                                    It was neat

                                    It was functional

                                    Its inside was absolutely spotless                  

                        There was no carpet but the tile was gleaming

                                    It was scoured daily

                        One Frenchman wrote,

                                    "Dutchwomen pride themselves on the cleanliness of their house and

                                                furniture to an unbelievable degree

                                     They never seem to stop washing and scrubbing all the wooden furniture

                                    and  fittings'

                        You've got high wide windows affording a maximum of sunlight

                        You've got groves of precisely planted trees surrounding this house  

Now, although the Dutch were so successful in commerce,

                        agriculture was far from forgotten

            Holland was most productive in farming 

            Farming was a source of great wealth

            Indeed, Holland was one of the first nations to develop a really prosperous commercial


            Before the 17th century,

                                    most farming in most countries was carried on at a subsistence level

                        That is, people raised what they could consume personally

                        There was no market for any surplus

            But Holland was different

                        In the northern Netherlands, no farm was far from a city

                        So it was easy to transport farm produce and sell it close by

            This puts cash in the hands of peasants

                        It creates a new demand for commercial and industrial products

But do not think that everyone is rich or everyone is middle class

            This rich world of art can be somewhat misleading

            Painters during this time did not focus on poor people

            There were plenty of workhouses and poor houses and slums

            There was much child labor

            A laborer could work over 14 hours a day for a few pennies

            An able bodied seaman might run a 50-50 chance of not returning from the Indies

                        But his salary was 2 to 3 guilders per week,

                                    about $15 in today's terms

            As Hans Koningberger notes in his book The World of Vermeer, 1632-1675 (1967),

                        the Dutch Golden Age was no Golden Age for half the population

            Robert Wallace notes the same thing in The World of Rembrandt, 1606-1669 (1968)

                        For example, in 1640, in Rembrandt's birthplace of Leiden,

                                    most of the city's 20,000 textile workers lived in huts furnished

                                                only with straw litter

            Incidentally, as Arnold Hauser notes in his Social History of Art ( Amer. ed., 1951),

                        most Dutch painters, even the prominent ones,

                                    lived in miserable circumstances

                        They needed to supplement their income

                        Van Goyen traded in tulips

                        Hobbema was a tax collector

                        Van de Velde was the proprietor of a linen business            

                        Jan Steen and Aert van der Velde were innkeepers

                        At times Rembrandt, Hals, Vermeer all worried about money

Now underlying all this prosperity was religious toleration

            There is far greater toleration than in any other European state

            Calvinism, also called the Reformed faith, was the official church

                        To hold government office you have to be a Calvinist

                        But no citizen is forced to belong to the Reformed church  

                        The state church is not imposed on anyone

                        In fact, one need not profess any religion at all

                        Indeed Calvinism grew very slowly

                        Until well into the 17th century,

                                    Calvinism was a small minority

                        At the beginning of the century,

                                    only about 10% of the population was Calvinist

                        And Brad Gregory notes in his lectures for the Teaching Company

                                    ("The History of Christianity in the Reformation Era," 2001),

                                    many magistrates did not want to replace a severe Catholic society

                                                with a severe Calvinist one

                        Conversely,  many Calvinist preachers wanted to be darned choosy about

                                    who are let into full membership in the congregation,

                                    that is they don't want nominal Christians with what they see as

                                                worldly standards

                        And clergy and the magistrates fought over all kinds of things

                                    Who is to appoint the parish clergy,  the church or the state?

                                    Who is in charge of the schools?

                                    What should be the content of religious instruction?

                                    Who administers poor relief?

                        Indeed early in the 17th century,

                                    Dutch Calvinists officially divided,

                                                as some sought to tone down the doctrine of  double predestination

                                    What double predestination simply means is that God has not only

                                                foreordained some people for salvation from eternity

                                    He has foreordained some people for damnation from eternity

                                    This doctrine was challenged by a theologian at the University of

                                                Leyden named Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609)

                                    Arminius says God wills the salvation of all and will give salvation

                                                to all who truly repent and believe in Christ

                                    In 1618, at the Synod of Dord,

                                                            Arminianism was repudiated

                                                The more rigid Calvinist party won out

                                                One old man was put to death

                                    But in 1632 Arminianism was tolerated

            Roman Catholics could not have official churches

                        But they could meet in homes

                        Theoretically these meetings were secret

                        In reality, these house churches were quite above board

                        Indeed,  in 17th century Amsterdam,

                                    there were twice as many admitted small Catholic house churches as

                                                there were Calvinist churches            

                        We tend to forget that Vermeer was a Roman Catholic, 

                                    that Jan Steen was a Catholic

            Mennonites also prospered

                        These are followers of Menno Simons (1946-1561) (Mean-oh),

                                    an Anabaptist reformer from Frisia who preached pacifism

                        Unlike other Dutch Anabaptists,

                                    these Mennonites were seen as assets to the community because

                                                they proved to be so constructive,

                                                            so skilled,

                                                            so useful

                        By the 17th century,

                                    the Mennonites were one of the largest groups in the Netherlands  

                        In the national museum of Berlin,

                                    one can see Rembrandt's famous painting The Mennonite Minister

                                                Cornelis Claesz (1641)

                                    Note the rhetorical gesture of the preacher as he expounds the word

                                                as his wife listens attentively

                                    Note also the sacred books on the richly carpeted working table

            Jews prospered as well

                        As early as 1657 Jews were recognized as Dutch citizens

                        Most Jews were from Spain or Portugal

                        Amsterdam held an important Sephardic community

                        Note Rembrandt's famous picture The Jewish Bride (c. 1665),

                                    a portrait commissioned by a Sephardic family

            And this religious toleration lead to broader intellectual toleration,

                        to an open society

One manifestation of this is seen in printing

            Amsterdam could well have been the leading printing center in all Europe

            Books are printed in huge numbers,

                        some of them books that were not allowed to be printed elsewhere

            People will come to the United Provinces just to write their books and have

                        these books printed

Another manifestation is found in universities

            In 1675 the first Dutch university is established at Leiden

                        Leiden became the intellectual center of northern Europe

                        It was almost on a par with the universities of Paris and Oxford

                        It was particularly famous for its oriental studies                              

And foreign intellectuals find they can work in Holland without intimidation

            Take the Frenchman Pierre Bayle ("bell") (1647-1706) who taught at Rotterdam


                        Bayle propounded the idea that morality was independent of religion,

                                    not a popular teaching at the time

            Take the philosopher and political theorist John Locke (1632-1704),

                                    the father of British empiricism,

                                    the author of the famous treaties on civil government

                        In 1683, he had to flee Britain

                        Amsterdam and Rotterdam gave him refuge

            Take another philosopher, René Descartes (1596-1650)

                        Descartes was a Frenchman who served in the army of Maurice of Nassau

                        Descartes commented,

                                    "There is no country in which freedom is more complete,

                                                 security greater, crime rarer,

                                                the simplicity of ancient manners more perfected here"        

But the United Provinces also had plenty of homegrown intellectuals

            Take Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677),

                                    who came from a family of Sephardic refugees from Spain

                        His writings were deemed so heretical that they were banned in most countries

                        But Spinoza works in total freedom in Holland

            Then there is Anton van Leewenhoek (1632-1723),

                                    like Spinoza a lens grinder 

                        Leewenhoek did much to develop the microscope

                        The authors of the web gallery of art suggest that Leeuwenhoek might have

                                    been the model for Vermeeer's The Geographer

            There is Christian Huygens (1629-1695),

                        a scientist who may be regarded as the connecting link between Galileo and


                        Huygens made clocks that worked with pendulums

                        He discovered the rings of Saturn

                        He launched the wave theory of light

            There is Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) (groo-shi-oos),

                        the great pioneer of international law

Of course, the artist of the Netherlands need no introduction to this audience

            No period in Dutch history has produced so many outstanding artists

            Now as Calvinism banned all imagery from the churches,

                        there was little demand for religious paintings

            Look at this slide of Hendrick van Vliet's (1611/2-1675) work the Interior of the

                                                            Pieterskerk in Leiden (1653)

                        It's right here at the Ringling Gallery

                        This is the church, by the way, in which the Mayflower pilgrims just before

                                    they departed to Plymouth, Massachusetts

                        Notice how stark the interior is

                        Certainly there are no paintings around         

            Also, as the United Provinces were a republic,

                        you did not get pictures of court ceremonials

             Dutch art was often secular

            It focuses on every daily life

            Hence it's a wonderful source for the historian

            Sir Kenneth Clark says we knows more about what the 17th Dutch looked like than

                        we do about any other society (Civilisation, 1969)

            Here we get tavern scenes, pastures, farms, seascapes, ships

            The success of an art work is not determined by a church or by a court or by a monarch

                        It's determined by a prosperous middle class wanting to see familiar objects on

                                    the canvas

            But what is not painted?

                        Possibly the most important influence on the new nation--

                                    the war of liberation

                        The war was the traumatic event of the Dutch experience

                        But except for a few battle scenes,

                                    a few sea battles,

                                                the war was ignored

                        Certainly we have plenty of pictures of plenty of soldiers

                                      But these soldiers are shown enjoying themselves

                        It's as if the Hollanders had seen all the fighting,

                                    all the violence they could stand

                        They wanted no more of it in their art           

            Every wealthy burgher family had its portrait gallery,

                        its collection of paintings

Now why does this empire decline,

                        because decline it does

            The empire peaked around 1650

            Then it started to decline,

                         slowly at first towards the end of the 17th century,

                                    then more rapidly after 1700

There are two major factors

First, for much of the early 17th century,

                        England and France had been distracted by religious and political dissension

            But by mid-17th century,

                        things had calmed down

            England and France could look outward a bit

            They could vie for what they see as their rightful share of the world's trade

            They could build their own merchant marines,

                        their own carrying fleet

            And the English in particular start to move in on the Dutch

                        They absorb much of the Dutch commerce with Sweden, with Denmark,

                                    with Portugal, with Brazil

Second, the Dutch enter into wars with the English in 1652 and again in 1654 and again in 1672

            These are primarily naval wars,

                        though in 1672 the Dutch lost New Amsterdam,

                        which was then named after the British successor to the throne,

                                    James II, the Duke of York-- New York       

            In actual fighting,

                        the Dutch remained a match for the English

            But England had the greater resources and Dutch commerce was spread too thin

            I 1672 and 1701 The Dutch also fought the French

                        The French were repulsed but such efforts are always costly                       

                        In this exposition, "Time and Transformation in 17th Century Dutch Art,"

                                    there is a wonderful picture called The Destruction of Bodegraven

                                                and Zwammerdam (1672)

                        The artist is Romeyn de Hooghe (1645-1708)

                        The work centers on two cities just north of the Hague

                        The work shows the French as literal savages    

            Never again does Holland attempt to play a major role in European politics

                         Yet if the Dutch ceased being a great political power or even a major industrial center,

            they were still prominent in commerce,

                                                in shipping, in finance

            They were middlemen, common carriers for other people

            Their freight rates remained the lowest in Europe

            They continued to grow rich on imports from the East Indies

            And to a large extent,

                        they simply lived on their investments

            They had accumulated capital for over 200 years

                        they simply lent it out to French entrepreneurs,

                                    to English entrepreneurs

            A fact: in the mid-18th century,

                        1/3 of the capital of the Bank of England belonged to Dutch shareholders

            And the Bank of Amsterdam remained the chief clearinghouse,

                                    the financial center of all Europe

But if the Golden Age was over,

                        the contribution was lasting,

                                    and nowhere is this contribution more lasting that in its art

                                                and what we will be seeing here at the Ringling this summer