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The Invisible Hand?How Market Economies have Emerged and Declined Since AD 500$
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Bas van Bavel

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199608133

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199608133.001.0001

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Markets in Late Medieval and Early Modern Principalities

Markets in Late Medieval and Early Modern Principalities

The Low Countries, 1100–1800

Chapter:
(p.145) 4 Markets in Late Medieval and Early Modern Principalities
Source:
The Invisible Hand?
Author(s):

Bas van Bavel

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199608133.003.0004

Many parts of the Low Countries were characterized by a large degree of freedom, and this was further expanded in the eleventh to thirteenth century, in a wave of revolts and self-organization by ordinary people. Old, feudal blockades were removed and markets for land, lease, and labour grew, followed by credit markets. By the sixteenth century, these well-organized, open markets had become dominant. This generated economic growth, but also gave rise to a new economic elite of merchant entrepreneurs, who extended their wealth in a society increasingly characterized by economic inequality. This was most pronounced in Holland, where the Golden Age saw these elites translate their wealth into political leverage, through financing the public debt, buying shares in the Dutch East India Company, supplying finances for the military and acquiring administrative positions. Their dominance made the economy and markets less open, and the economy began to stagnate.

Keywords:   Low Countries, associations, short-term leasing, wage labour, annuities, wealth inequality, merchant entrepreneurs, Dutch Golden Age, coercion

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