The Netherlands in the Golden Age was almost unrecognisable compared with today, and yet, in some ways, it was not. Refugees sought a safe haven there, migrants did the heavy work and youngsters created a youth culture. Consumers wanted the latest fashions, investors bought shares and large shareholders made risky speculations.
The story of the seventeenth century is and remains a miracle. A hotchpotch of provinces revolted against the Spanish king and then, in a series of ups and downs, built a new state that developed into an experiment unlike anything the world had ever seen before. A society emerged that was ruled by its citizens, a society of unprecedented freedoms and myriad religions, ships that sailed the world over and trading posts from Indonesia to Brazil. Scientists unravelled the mysteries of nature and painters presented a new vision of reality.
So how should we regard such a miracle? The Dutch Golden Age sees the Dutch seventeenth century, the Golden Age, as a gateway to today’s modern times, a period in which the Netherlands, and Holland and Amsterdam in particular, became a laboratory that the world used for experimental research on globalisation, migration, tolerance, consumerism, investment and media hypes, and many other modern trends.