Buffoon with a Lute, ca. 1626, by Frans Hals (Louvre)
As the wealthiest city in Europe in the 17th century, Amsterdam transformed itself into a thriving center for great artists, scientists, writers, and scholars, as well as a hub of banking and finance. Once the city rid itself of Spanish rule and set up a society based on capitalism and world trade, it also became a metropolis that was philosophically enlightened and religiously tolerant. It encouraged art (Rembrandt and others), philosophy (Descartes), science (Leuwenhoek), new universities, publishing (Hobbes and Locke could not publish in England, so they published in Amsterdam); and the beginnings of international law (Grotius).
Ralph Nurnberger, a professor of international relations at Georgetown University, explores the many facets of this 17th-century hub from its heady rise to the collapse of the tulip futures—capitalism's first “bubble.” Along the way he highlights how the city’s religious tolerance enabled Dutch Jews to modernize and practice their religion openly, as well as engage in trade in Europe and the New World.
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