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Topics in History: The 'Dutch' Golden Age

An image of a map of Absterdam from 1680
Wit, Frederik de. Exactissima Amstelodami veteris et novissimi delineatio. Absterdam, 1680.

Courses on the Dutch ‘Golden Age’ are known to celebrate the cultural, intellectual, and economic prosperous landscape that brought about the renowned paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, or Hals, the Republic’s vast trade empire and the VOC, the rich merchant houses along the Amsterdam canals, Delftware, and the great intellectual achievements of the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic thinkers – i.e. Grotius, Huygens, and Spinoza. The Dutch Golden Age has often been depicted in a romanticized light. The ‘Golden Age’, both the phrase and the historical period it describes, became entrenched in Dutch memory, it is a cornerstone of Dutch national identity. Still today, many people in the Netherlands pride themselves on their glorious, enterprising history. This course will add to and diverge from this rosy narrative.  

The beginning of this course will focus on how the global impacted the local – i.e., the global connections that contributed to the Dutch ‘Golden Age’, recognizing that the Dutch prosperity, strength, and creative energy were highly dependent on foreign imports and international networks at the time. Since there has long been a tendency to disconnect the history of Dutch imperialism and colonialism from the history of the Dutch Golden Age, the second half of the course will explore how the local impacted the global – i,e., the larger global implications of the Dutch Republic’s success at this time. This course will put forth the story of the violent colonial enterprise that brought about the slave trade and human suffering, stressing the fact that the Dutch Golden Age was not so golden for everyone involved. It seeks to emphasize the paradoxes and silences in the historiography of the young Dutch Republic.  

Department of History, Queen's University

49 Bader Lane, Watson Hall 212
Kingston ON K7L 3N6


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Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.