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  • Open Access
  • © 2018

Well-being, Sustainability and Social Development

The Netherlands 1850–2050


  • Examines over two centuries of societal development using a novel historical and statistical analysis

  • Features The Netherlands as a case study -- a once rich country currently experiencing high levels of extreme poverty

  • Shows that the way a society deals with natural capital shapes social structure and also has a great impact on quality of life

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Softcover Book USD 59.99
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Table of contents (24 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xxxii
  2. Prologue: Well-being and Sustainability in a Long-Term Perspective

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 1-1
    2. The Great Transformation and the Questions

      • Jan-Pieter Smits, Harry Lintsen
      Pages 25-44Open Access
  3. Well-being and Sustainability Around 1850: A Search for a Frame of Reference

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 45-45
    2. Quality of Life: A Poor and Vulnerable People

      • Harry Lintsen
      Pages 81-102Open Access
  4. Part I: The Great Transformation 1850–1910

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 145-145
    2. The Point of Departure Around 1850: The Turn of the Tide

      • Harry Lintsen
      Pages 147-164Open Access
    3. Agriculture and Nutrition: The Food Revolution

      • Harry Lintsen
      Pages 165-182Open Access
    4. Energy: A Revolution with Steam

      • Harry Lintsen
      Pages 201-215Open Access
  5. Part II: New Problems 1910–1970

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 237-237
    2. The Situation Around 1910: A New Order

      • Frank Veraart
      Pages 239-258Open Access
    3. Agriculture and Nutrition: The End of Hunger

      • Frank Veraart
      Pages 259-292Open Access
    4. Energy and Plastics: Toward a Fossil Land of Milk and Honey

      • Frank Veraart, Rick Hölsgens, Ben Gales
      Pages 327-353Open Access

About this book

This open access book examines more than two centuries of societal development using novel historical and statistical approaches. It applies the well-being monitor developed by Statistics Netherlands that has been endorsed by a significant part of the international, statistical community. 

It features The Netherlands as a case study, which is an especially interesting example; although it was one of the world’s richest countries around 1850, extreme poverty and inequality were significant problems of well-being at the time. Monitors of 1850, 1910, 1970 and 2015 depict the changes in three dimensions of well-being: the quality of life 'here and now', 'later' and 'elsewhere'. The analysis of two centuries shows the solutions to the extreme poverty problem and the appearance of new sustainability problems, especially in domestic and foreign ecological systems. 

The study also reveals the importance of natural capital: soil, air, water and subsoil resources, showing their relation with the social structure of the ‘here and now´. Treatment and trade of natural resources also impacted on the quality of life ‘later’ and ‘elsewhere.’ Further, the book illustrates the role of natural capital by dividing the capital into three types of raw materials and concomitant material flows: bio-raw materials, mineral and fossil subsoil resources. 

Additionally, the analysis of the institutional context identifies the key roles of social groups in well-being development. The book ends with an assessment of the solutions and barriers offered by the historical anchoring of the well-being and sustainability issues. This unique analysis of well-being and sustainability and its institutional analysis appeals to historians, statisticians and policy makers.


  • sustainability Holland
  • Sustainability Netherlands
  • Circularity Holland
  • Circularity Netherlands
  • GDP Sustainability
  • Economic Growth sustainability
  • society development netherlands
  • society development europe
  • sustainability europe
  • ecological history
  • ecological trade offs
  • dutch sustainability
  • well being netherlands
  • well being europe
  • natural capital sustainability
  • natural resources well being
  • sustainability future
  • society sustainability
  • future natural capital
  • sustainability population


“This work should be read as a groundbreaking model of applied history that addresses a target audience far beyond the scholarly community. Such target groups include stakeholders in the political realm, who long for sound expertise from the humanities on the seminal question, how to transition to a society that does justice to both well-being and sustainability in the broadest sense.” (Helmuth Trischler, Technology and Culture, Vol. 61 (3), 2020)

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

    Harry Lintsen, Frank Veraart

  • Statistics Netherlands, The Hague, The Netherlands

    Jan-Pieter Smits

  • University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    John Grin

About the authors

Prof. dr. ir. Harry Lintsen (1948) is professor emeritus of history of technology at the Eindhoven University of Technology and member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. He has been the chief editor of the six volume book series on the history of technology in the Netherlands in 19th century and chairman of the editing board of the seven volume book series on the history of technology in the Netherlands in 20th century. Based on these works he wrote Made in Holland a history of technology of the Netherlands 1800-2000. Other important research domains of prof. Lintsen is the historical development of the Dutch knowledge infrastructure in the twentieth century. From 2010 to 2017 he has been the project leader of the research project Historical Roots of the Dutch Sustainability Challenges, 1850-2010. The research project studies the sustainability developments of the Netherlands from a long term perspective. The book Well-Being, Sustainability and Social Development, The Netherlands, 1850-2050 published by Springer (2018) is the synthesis publication of this project.

Dr. ir. Frank Veraart (1970) is an assistant professor history of technology at the School of Innovation Sciences. He graduated in Technology and Society in 1995, and obtained a PhD in history of Technology in 2008 at the Eindhoven University of Technology. He studies the historical development of sustainability trade-offs in transnational resource chains. International trade influences well-being and sustainability (social, economic and ecologic) at places of excavation, production and consumption. Frank studies the origins and historical development of the resources chains and its local’s impacts on sustainability and well-being. Furthermore Frank has expertise in history of mobility, spatial planning and computing. He was co- editor of Cycling Cities: The European Experience (Stichting Historie der Techniek, 2016) and contributed to the books Jos Arts et. al. Builders and Planners (Eburon, 2016). Frank has been involved in the research Historical Roots of the Dutch Sustainability Challenges, 1850-2010, He is co-author of the syntheses study Well-Being, Sustainability and Social Development, The Netherlands 1850-2050 (Springer 2018).

Prof. dr. Jan-Pieter Smits is part-time professor Qualification of Sustainability at Eindhoven University of Technology, a chair financed by Statistics Netherlands. He obtained his PhD degree in 1995 at the VU Amsterdam. He worked at Utrecht University and the University of Groningen, where he published in the field of historical national accounting, long term economic growth, and the effects of economic growth on well-being. He coordinated historical research in the Groningen Growth and Development Centre, and was a program coordinator in the N.W. Posthumus Institute, the post-graduate school of economic and social history. In 2007 Smits was appointed senior statistical researcher at Statistics Netherlands, where he became project leader of the Sustainability Monitor of the Netherlands and its successor the Monitor of Well-being. With Rutger Hoekstra he led the UNECE – Eurostat - OECD Taskforce for Measuring Sustainable Development. Smits has also represented Statistics Netherlands in the United Nations Inter-Agency Group for Measuring the Sustainable Development Goals.

Prof. Dr. John Grin is full professor of Policy Science, especially System Innovation at the University of Amsterdam. He graduated in physics (BSc, 1983; MSc, 1986), obtained his PhD (1990) at the VU University in Amsterdam on technology assessment and did post-doctoral research on these issues at Princeton University (1990-91) and VU University (1991-1992). He then joined the University of Amsterdam’s Department of Public Policy Studies (later part of the Department of Political Science).  Grin was co-founder and co-director (with Jan Rotmans & Johan Schot) of the Dutch Knowledge Network on System Innovations and transitions (2005-2010) and scientific director of the then Amsterdam School of Social science Research (2006-2010). Currently, he is co-director of the Programme Transnational Configurations, Conflicts and Governance at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research. Theoretically, his research interests include policy analysis, policy design and the governance of transitions. Empirically, his work focuses on sustainable agriculture and food, health and care and increasingly also urban transformation. He has extensive experience in evaluating and monitoring projects and programmes for innovative policy design and governance in these areas. 

Bibliographic Information

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)