1650: Hard-Won Unity.

Frijhoff, W. and M. Spies
New York: Palgrave Macmillan

Description from the Nederlands Letterenfonds / Dutch Foundation For Literature

This ambitious study presents the latest views on society during the famous Dutch Golden Age. No other general work treats the most important themes of Dutch culture so systematically. The book is more informative, more soundly researched and less speculative than Simon Schama’s The Embarrassment of Riches (1987). It is also an outstanding complement to Jonathan Israel’s great work, The Dutch Republic (1995), with its predominantly economic and political approach.

Although 1650 is the central year, the subject is examined in a much broader time frame, which makes the book an excellent introduction to seventeenth-century society in general. The national and international political situation is used as a backdrop for an analysis of such major centres of power as the stadtholder’s court and the municipal councils. Even more strongly, the book lays stress on the intellectual, professional and religious networks of which citizens could be members, and on the important role of family connections. Philosophy, religion and the arts are treated at length, and particular attention is paid to the ‘instruments of culture’, that is, to the institutions and media responsible for the dissemination of culture, including language, education and the printed word.

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