The Golden Age Loses Its Glitter
By the end of the seventeenth century the magnificent miracle of the Dutch Republic was giving way to a more commonplace existence. The country was still wealthy but declining in comparison with the great powers around it. The special conditions upon which Dutch preeminence had been built had gone or were rapidly disappearing. More spacious and populous neighbors like France and England had turned deliberately and effectively to breaking the Dutch quasi monopoly upon Europe’s interregional trade; it would be only a slim exaggeration to call the mercantilism represented by the English Navigation Acts and Colbert’s policies a riposte to Dutch domination of commerce and shipping. Once other nations began to ship and to trade directly in a substantial part of the products they imported and exported, the massive profits on which both Dutch prosperity and Dutch power rested ceased to flow in. Another burden, less visible but no less damaging to the Dutch position, was the load of debt and taxation created by the long series of wars. Dutch taxation, unlike that of other countries, did not rest primarily upon the land but upon external trade and internal consumption; as such, it represented a substantial competitive cost which other states faced to a much lesser extent. Yet the immense wealth of the Dutch, especially of the merchants and patricians, did not vanish overnight.
KeywordsQuicksilver Europe Shipping Income Assure
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