Dutch urban history has finally accorded the eighteenth century the attention it deserves in a number of recent publications. That century was characterized by the economic and political decline of the Dutch Republic generally, and certain towns in particular. The ‘Zuiderzee’ towns witnessed a dramatic fall in population, reflecting their economic decline, and in the southern part of the province of Holland urban life also stagnated. In contrast to the ports, inland towns derived status in the urban hierarchy from their industrial interests, but due to foreign competition in the eighteenth century, they too declined; most notably, the cloth industry of Leiden, the clay pipe industry of Gouda, and the breweries and potteries of Delft each lost the leading position established in the seventeenth century. Leiden was the largest of the towns with more than 70,000 inhabitants in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, and after Amsterdam, was the most populous town of the Republic. Leiden however could not maintain that position, and lost almost 50 per cent of its inhabitants during the first half of the eighteenth century, declining further to under 30,000 residents by 1800. Gouda numbered about 20,000 in 1732, but declined to 12,000 in 1795; Hoorn with 12,000 inhabitants diminished to only 9,500 in 1795 and the population of Delft, too, fell from around 24,000 in 1680 to 14,000 in 1795.