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  • Cited by 6
  • Print publication year: 1997
  • Online publication date: February 2010

3 - Linking the fortunes: currency and banking, 1550–1800



In the course of the seventeenth century, Dutch finance became intricately connected to the world economic system. Its development was bolstered by favourable developments in international trade, which allowed the Dutch to exploit their geographic position and their harbours to the full, and by an economic boom which lasted long enough for considerable capital accumulation. The political and social structures were well suited to the preservation of wealth and allowed for high propensities to save. The accumulated funds in The Netherlands are estimated to have grown enormously since approximately 1500, even during the less favourable eighteenth century. Van Zanden calculated for Holland alone a rise in capital wealth from ten to twelve million guilders around 1500 to approximately 1,750 million guilders around 1790 (Van Zanden 1993, p. 23).

In the beginning, the swell of capital was mainly diverted to domestic investments and trade. Increasingly, the Dutch funds came to be invested in public loans and foreign assets. The demand by public authorities, in particular for government loans, had increased considerably (cf. previous chapter). But during the eighteenth century, foreign governments came to attract Dutch capital too, specifically for the underwriting of warfare loans. As such, the Amsterdam capital market served to link varied networks of funds and fortunes, both of domestic and of foreign origin.

The development was the more remarkable as the Dutch financial institutions did not excel in innovation. On the contrary, the establishment remained basically oriented towards the past. Several Italian cities and also the English state, in the meantime, moved ahead of the Dutch.