Dutch Primacy in World Trade, 1585-1740

By Jonathan I. Israel | Go to book overview

2
The Origins of Dutch World-trade Hegemony

EXCEPT for Britain after around 1780, no one power in history ever achieved so great a preponderance over the processes of world trade as did the Dutch, for a century and a half, from the endè of the sixteenth down to the early eighteenth century. That any one nation, or state, particularly one lacking the early start and past imperial grandeur of the Iberians, Venetians, French, and English, should have achieved so prolonged, and constantly renewed, a capacity to dominate the world economy is, in itself, sufficiently amazing. But what makes it still more astounding is that at the time of its maritime and commercial greatness the Dutch Republic was the smallest of the major European states in territory, population, and natural resources. In all these respects, the United Provinces lagged far behind France, Spain, and England, the obvious and natural great powers of the age.

Furthermore, if for us today it constitutes a historical question of the first order that this tiny entity should, for a century and a half, have functioned as the hub of world commerce, the universal intermediary of trade, possessing, at its height, roughly half of the world's total stock of seagoing ships, this phenomenon struck contemporaries not just as prodigious but also as profoundly disturbing. The meteoric rise of the DutcRepublic to world-trade supremacy at the close of the sixteenth century, and the techniques and strategies by which it was achieved, excited not just universal attention, and eager attempts at emulation, but anxiety, resentment, and a good deal of outright hostility, the latter not infrequently tinged with mockery that so diminutive a state (which a few years before had not even existed and whose territory was so meagre) should cultivate such vast and unprecedented pretensions. 'For it seems a wonder to the world', as the English economic writer Thomas Mun summed it up,

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Dutch Primacy in World Trade, 1585-1740
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • List of Figures xii
  • List of Maps xiii
  • List of Tables xiv
  • List of Abbreviations xix
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Origins of Dutch World-Trade Hegemony 12
  • 3 - The Breakthrough to World Primacy, 1590-1609 38
  • 4 - The Twelve Years' Truce, 1609-1621 80
  • 5 - The Dutch and the Crisis of the World Economy, 1621-1647 121
  • 6 - The Zenith, 1647-1672 197
  • 7 - Beyond the Zenith, 1672-1700 292
  • 8 - The Dutch World Entrepoôt and the Conflict of the Spanish Succession,1700-1713 359
  • 9 - Decline Relative and Absolute, 1713-1740 377
  • 10 Afterglow and Final Collapse 399
  • 11 - Conclusion 405
  • Bibliography 417
  • Index 447
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