Dutch Primacy in World Trade, 1585-1740

By Jonathan I. Israel | Go to book overview

9
Decline Relative and Absolute, 1713-1740

THE question of whether and to what extent the Dutch 'empire of trade' declined during the eighteenth century, like questions about the decay of any great empire, political, cultural, or economic, has long intrigued historians. No other aspect of Dutch economic history has been so intensively debated. Yet, despite a growing mass of statistical data on the Dutch economy of the eighteenth century, scholars continue to arrive at strikingly different conclusions.1 There is general agreement that Dutch bulk carrying, or at least Baltic bulk freightage, did a great deal better than was once supposed and that serious collapse occurred only in the industrial sector, or at any rate parts of it. But that is as far as the consensus goes. One view, and perhaps still the most influential, propounded by Johan de Vries, in a famous book, was that there was no Dutch economic decline in 'absolute terms' before 1780, only a process of 'relative decline' whereby the Dutch, failing to keep place with expansion elsewhere, were left with a shrinking share of trade and shipping.2 More recently, Jan de Vries has argued that the Dutch economy did in fact suffer serious decline from around 1670 down to the middle of the eighteenth century but recovered strongly after 1750.3 Still other historians, looking at levels of employment and per capita income, are inclined to the view that the Dutch economy did not decline at any stage.4

Given this bewildering variety of views, the reader will no doubt groan with anguish on realizing that we are now about to reject all of these recent approaches and adopt yet another. He might

____________________
1
Spooner, Risks at Sea, 47; Riley, "The Dutch Economy after 1650", 522-4; van Zanden , "Economic van Holland", 562-4.
2
De Vries, Economische achteruitgang, conclusion.
3
De Vries, "Decline and Rise", 149-89.
4
Riley, "The Dutch Economy after 1650", 521-69.

-377-

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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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