from prehistory to the industrial revolution, the history of the economy and society


The beginning of mankind (around 200,000 to 150,000 v. Chr.) Starts at the prehistory of East Africa. The prehistory is an era that is characterized by the absence of written sources and form a society based on hunting and gathering.

Man (homo sapiens sapiens) lived in small groups as nomads or in small settlements. Within these small settlements arose, the first form of barter. An economy based on what was needed. Tin and flint for example, were exchanged for food. Labor specialization also took place as metalworking. Hunting societies characterized by low population density with a small size, lack of social differentiation (homogeneity), independence from other groups (tribes), economic autarky (self-sufficient), low employment, low level of production and material possessions.

Protohistorie (Neolithic)
In the period from the protohistory (transition period from prehistory to antiquity) created the first agricultural revolution (11,000 v. Chr.), Also called the Neolithic revolution, where people earn their living by producing food, the introduction of money, trade and the written word. Commerce, socialization (learning values) hierarchy, administration, population growth, density, surplus production, labor specialization management, the right to power, private property, increased ownership and a more advanced economy took shape in this age.

The Neolithic era took place in various locations around the Mediterranean and the Middle East (the Fertile Crescent) during the end of the last ice age. The development proceeded very gradually and the pace of development differed by location and time period. Domestication and the origins of agriculture began in this area through the regular rainfall, the presence of different grasses (wheat) and later irrigation from the Euphrates, Tigris in the Middle East and the Nile in Egypt. Europe had plenty of woods which agricultural land in that period were less available. The first agricultural revolution (s) characterized by an increase in trade, markets, money, stratification (increase in inequalities between different social groups), state, cities, writing, greater dependency relationships between people and labor specialization compared to hunting societies.

Ancient Egyptian Empire
The ancient Egyptian empire along the Nile (valley) emerged around 3300 v. Chr. and went down into 332 v. Chr. by the conquest of Alexander the Great. The Egyptian Empire developed faster through irrigation techniques and farming along the Nile. This was necessary due to desertification in the surrounding area (8000 – 6000 BC..). As a result attracted many people to the Nile and the Egyptian empire could become a great empire with advanced techniques, law, architecture (pyramids), art, language and writing, a religion with its own gods and its own ideology.

The economy in ancient Egypt was strong from above regulated by the pharaoh. Agriculture was the basis for the economy and made a stock economy possible. Pharaoh had the land in possession. Later came more pieces of land owned by prominent families or merit. The development of new technologies, development of the Empire arose also new professions and became division of labor and specialization of labor (construction of pyramids, irrigation systems, infrastructure, etc.). Money as a medium of exchange was still far off and was only taken from the time of the Greeks

Mesopotamian Empire

Mesopotamia (Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates) is the area after 6000 v. Chr. Strong population growth through trade, infrastructure (irrigation and roads) new inventions (the wheel) law, mathematics and cuneiform.

The area has several successive empires, including the (ancient) Babylonian Empire with the Hanging Gardens and Tower of Babylon around 900 v. Chr. conquered by the Assyrian Empire (which later was conquered by the New Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar). The core area is to present-day Iraq, Syria and Iran. By pillage and conquest (539 v. Chr.) From neighboring nations such as Persia (under King Cyrus and Darius) and the Medes (today’s Iran and the Middle East) breaks down the Empire, and eventually the area in the hands of Alexander the Great came (331 v. Chr.)

Macedonian Empire (Alexander the Great)

Alexander the Great (King of Macedonia and educated by Aristotle) ​​created a great empire by conquering in Anatolia (Turkey), Egypt (Alexandria) and the Persian Empire around 334 v. Chr.

The Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great stretched from the Adriatic to the Indus. His empire was later divided into smaller states through civil wars and rebellions within the Macedonian Empire. Greece emerged from one of these states.

Greek culture

Greek culture (Hellenistic civilization with Pella as capital) grew out of this empire (334-30 v. Chr.). Greek culture is the foundation of our contemporary Western civilization still far and continuing into late antiquity, Persia (Battle of Marathon and Salamis) and the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire) with Constantinople, modern Istanbul as the capital.

After the political takeover of the Roman Empire in 146 v. Chr. and the complete conquest of Greece and Egypt in 30 v. Chr. Greek remained (Hellenistic) culture dominant in the eastern part of the Roman Empire and the former Hellenistic Persia.

This is reflected in the first signs of Western civilization in which democracy, justice, citizenship, philosophy, art, literature, architecture and science were formed. There were international trade and travel, systematization and realism important features of Hellenism. Famous philosophers and mathematicians Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates and Democritus.

The Roman Empire

The beginning of the Roman Empire is based on the saga of the bloody strife brother of Romulus and Remus (753-715 v. Chr). The archaeological findings show that the Roman Empire from 1000 v. Chr. King knew a time when Rome developed into a city under Latin, Sabine and Etruscan influences.

From the myths we know that Romulus killed his brother Remus, became king and sennex instituted (an advisory group of wise men). That was the beginning of the Roman Senate. Due to the bad experiences with the kings of the Senate was the most important political body within the Roman state (500 v. Chr.). The state changed from a kingdom to a republic (res publica) led by magistrates and advised by the Senate. Within the Roman Empire there was a division between empires (the patricians) and the poor (the plebeians).

By an internal civil war and a battle between allies, plebeians and patricians, the battle between Generals (legionnaires) and the republic, the republic lost its power and Rome became a dictatorship (general Sulla, 82 v. Chr.). Sulla was succeeded by Pompey who conquered Syria and Judea. Pompey had in 60 v. Chr. share power with Gaius Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar was proclaimed perpetual dictator of the Roman Empire but was assassinated by his adopted son Brutus. As a result, the Empire was divided over Marcus Antonius (Syria and Egypt), Gaius Octavian (Hispanje Gaul and Rome) and Marcus Lepidus (Africa). In 31 v. Chr. Octavian defeated Antony at the battle of Actium, became sole ruler of the Roman Empire and was given the title Augustus (exalted). In 27 v. Chr. was Augustus (Octavian), the first emperor of the Roman Empire.

The Roman Empire reached its greatest extent to the Mediterranean Sea with Emperor Trajan (98 to 114 n. Chr.). Emperor Constantine came after a very turbulent period in 324 n. Chr. to power. He converted to Christianity and founded a new capital he named Nova Roma and later called Constantinople, now Istanbul. Christianity became the official state religion in the Roman Empire.

It is overgrown Roman Empire (ca. 753 BC. To 476 n. Chr.) Fell in two pieces apart by the Great migrations (476 n. Chr.) And internal instability within the Roman Empire. On one side the western part with Rome as its capital and the Catholic religion, on the other hand, the eastern part of Constantinople as its capital and the Eastern Orthodox Church and religion. Both parts lost a lot of power through weak and incompetent governance. West lost power by including the looting of the Vandals (East Germans) and the conquests of the Germans in 476. Chr. within the Roman Empire.

The beginning of the Roman period (Kingdom) was characterized by a predominantly agricultural economy. Trade was conducted through the river Tiber. During the formation of the republic there was more trade by imports from Sicily, Greece and Spain. The industry is becoming more specialized and there was great deal of labor and division of labor and specialization. Small businesses where Romans had to do everything myself to make way for larger groups. Rome was the economic center of the ancient world.

In the Empire flourished the economy completely. The Romans took more products from the conquered provinces and colonies. In its heyday, the Romans could have various monopolies on commodities and luxurious materials. By political chaos and decadence, the empire collapsed and the economy again. Many migrants from rural areas were unemployed in Rome. To counter revolutions had to be unemployed kept at work which was paid from the state treasury. Augustus could still turn the tide by the unemployed masses to work in the countryside and by levying taxes more efficient. Augustus also enhanced free movement of people and goods, infrastructure (aqueducts, roads, the connections between the Mediterranean and the provinces) and introduced a single currency (the Sestertius in). Eventually the Roman Empire fell apart yet again by incompetent administration, decadence of the elite (bread and circuses) and quarrels. The Empire broke apart into two pieces. Moreover, the Roman Empire lost most rich African part of the Vandals, which could no longer pay the Roman Empire’s army. The (West) Roman Empire was definitely not effective anymore and the soldiers pay from the wealthy former colonies. For safety, one could have been better with the Goths, Vandals and the Franks. Providing security was always on the basis of economic growth.

Now the Roman Empire could not provide security for more free trade and cheap safe trade routes, the economy collapsed also. The prices went up, the quality declined, agricultural production dropped and they fell into a primitive barter economy. Instead of roof stones were built again straw huts. Between 500 and 1000 people lived more again in local settlements, reading and writing belonged to the elite (nobility and clergy) mass dried up and some crop failures led to famine and disease. After the fall of Rome (476 n. Chr.) One was appointed more in the middle ages on close family ties instead. law based on the capacity of the individual.

Byzantine Empire

The eastern portion changing in a Greek Empire (Byzantine Empire) and retained its power until 1453. The Byzantine Empire continued to evolve and is characterized largely by the many battles (Crusades) in Persia and Anatolia against the Arabs, but also enhanced the trade relations, including the Silk Road between Europe and Asia. The area expansions and new boundaries were not sustainable, so the Byzantine Empire in 636 n. Chr. many parts had to give to the Arabs.

In 1071 the Byzantine emperor for help from Western Christians to fight the Turks in Anatolia and Syria. The Byzantine Empire was in decline by the many crusades that the connection between Asia and Europe prohibited. Because of the declining trade and declining economic activity the Byzantine Empire could no longer pay the mercenaries to defend Anatolia, making the Empire farther fell apart.

The elite departed from Constantinople to Western cities that revive at the end of the Middle Ages, with the rebirth (renaissance) of Western culture in the northern Italian cities (Florence, Milan and Genoa). Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 in what is now modern Turkey.

Ages (west European part)

After the split and the collapse of the Roman Empire was the economy in the Middle Ages (500 to 1500) based mostly on barter and coins within a feudal system and the dominant role of the church in society.

The Northwest European part was divided into 1) Franken (led by Charles Martel, Carolingian) and the assimilation with Gallo-Romance languages, what is now modern France, 2) Saxony, Goths, Vandals and Frisians (Germany, Netherlands) 3) Vikings (Scandinavia), 4) Angles and Celts (modern Britain).

 Distribution of the Frankish Empire by the Treaty of Verdun (843) ██ Charles the Bald (Western Francia) ██ Lothair I (Middle Francia) ██ Louis the German (Eastern Francia)

Charlemagne eventually inherited the bulk of the Frankish Empire which is now covered most of Western Europe. After death, the great empire fell apart into several small feudal states. During the treaty of Verdun (843), the Empire was divided into three sections and then further subdivided.

The land was owned by the aristocracy and the agricultural workers (serfs) provide labor for the lord in return for the country’s food and shelter.

After the invasion of the Moors in Spain (Andalusia, 711-1492) and the invasion of the Normans (10th century) turned a relatively stable period in which the West offered help to the Byzantine army against the incursions of the Turks, expanding influence in the east, aid to Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem and preventing territorial expansion of the Islamists.

This led to the Crusades (1096-1271) in Palestine to liberate the holy site in Jerusalem. The development of dogmatism (description how you had to believe it) and the fight against heresy played a major role in the Middle Ages.

During the Renaissance the feudal system disappeared partly (depending on the period 14th, 15th and 16th century) and the bourgeoisie got more power and ground (of production) in hands.

Renaissance (rebirth) from the 14th century

The Renaissance refers to the achievements of classical antiquity which originated in Italy (ancient Rome). The Renaissance is a late medieval cultural movement rediscovered by Italian humanists focused on architecture, art and literature inspired by the achievements of classical antiquity.

The Renaissance is a clear break with the dark ages with an emphasis on the discovery of new continents, modern inventions (printing press, Copernican system of astronomy, paper, gunpowder and the compass) and the end of the feudal system.

It is also known as the new world. The Renaissance is the beginning of the end of the Middle Ages, where there is more room for individualism, realism, rationalism, secularism, where the intellectual elite withdrew from the dominant Christian denominations (Catholicism, Protestantism and Orthodox Eastern Church), and absolute power the king or emperor. The Renaissance began in Italy, among others because the power was much smaller of the emperor and the power of nobles, merchants and the urban bourgeoisie was larger (genesis of states or states meetings). Florence became the first and most important city of the Renaissance and later shifted the cultural life itself to Venice and Rome. Until 1450 limited itself to Renaissance Italy.

Despite the growth of cities wrong in Europe an economic depression, with the outbreak of epidemics, wars and high grain prices. However, improved market around the Baltic Sea with the creation of Hanseatic cities and the weakening of the Vikings. In the 17th century, the Renaissance itself in Western Europe causing, among the Golden Age in the Netherlands (Northern Netherlands sovereignty council meetings and the secession of the absolute monarch of Spain, Philip II).

The Renaissance knew on the one hand, the humanists who were more oriented secular, focused on reason, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and tolerance, on the other hand, the reformation to dissident Christians were critical of Catholic doctrine (Luther, Protestants , Reformed). After the fall of the Byzantine Empire drew scholars from Italy who took the culture of Greek antiquity.

End of Ages, the era of dynastic states

The end of the Middle Ages is also characterized by the permanent undecided battle between Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Austria (Emperor Charles V) and France (King Francis I). Also known as the Italian Wars (1494-1559) with Italy at stake in the struggle between Francis I and Charles V.

Charles V (Charles) contributed to the state of many European countries, as we know now. Countries were detached from the German and French rich dressings. In 1543, 17 provinces (Dutch and Belgian) merged into the Habsburg Netherlands. Even Charles V carried the golden (gold carolus, 1521) in order to boost trade. Charles V also led central government bodies. Netherlands was governed from Brussels. In 1548 the Habsburg Netherlands came almost ‘completely independent’ of Charles V during the reign of Mary of Hungary (sister of Charles V). In 1555 Charles V abdicated the throne and his son Philip II succeeded him. Charles V had the Spanish Kingdoms over to Philip II.

The Dutch revolt and the 80-year war and the Reformation

Philip II led many religious disputes among the Dutch revolt (against Protestantism) and the fight against the Ottomans. The Dutch revolt arose from the excessive tax burden on the nobles and the fight against the growing Protestantism in the Netherlands (Calvinist sermons and iconoclasm).

King PhilipII of Spain.jpg

Philip II sent the Duke of Alva to the Netherlands to resolve the unrest with a heavy hand. The military and religious repression and the heavy loads created in 1568 (Dutch Revolt) finally in the 80-year war. William of Orange led the revolt of the Protestants but was killed in 1584 by Balthasar Gerards.

In 1585 separated the Protestant Northern Netherlands from the Catholic Southern Netherlands (The fall of Antwerp) and the Netherlands became independent from England and the foreign princes and power fell into the hands of the States General. In 1588 the Dutch Republic pulled together under a Calvinist unit.

Johan van Barneveld followed William of Orange politics (in the States General), Prince Maurits (second son of William of Orange) was the military leader of the uprising. By the fragmentation of the Spanish government, together with the Huguenots and the Triple Alliance (with England and France in 1596), the Spanish power could be expelled from the Netherlands.

In 1602 founded Van Barneveld, the Dutch East India Company (the first public company with freely tradable shares and multinational), causing the Republic to become a (economic) world power. Through the separation of Spain and the absolute power of Philip II was a basis for any pluralistic polity where much later a parliamentary democracy could grow. However, the Netherlands experienced a lot of infighting among the political (Barneveld) and military (Maurice).

In 1600 at the Battle of Nieuwpoort entered the first cracks in the relationship between Van Barneveld and Maurice. In 1609 the gap increased due to the disagreement over the truce with Spain (Twelve Year Truce 1609-1621). Van Barneveld was before the truce was due to the high cost of the wars with Spain and Maurice against because the Spanish army was so weakened and a victory was near. The break finally escalated by the difference in matter of faith. Van Barneveld found that there was room for different beliefs and Maurice was the Calvinist doctrine of unity, so there was also a political-religious conflict. Van Barneveld undermined the military authority of Maurice further with the establishment of urban militias (independent mercenaries). Maurits had then Oldenbarnevelt arrest on treason and eventually behead the courtyard, also seen as a Coup because Van Barneveld had political authority.

The Golden Age (17th century) and the French domination (18th century)

The Golden Age is associated with the heyday in the field of world trade (maritime world and colonies), science, art and the establishment of the Dutch Republic in the 17th century, when Amsterdam started to play an important role. The political and military power took a prominent position on the world stage with, among others, the establishment of the Dutch East India Company (1602) focused on trade (spices) and the Dutch West India Company (1629) focused on military domination and slave trade.

The society was less marked by the feudal system, there was a freer labor market and citizens had access to loans and equity, which made it easier to invest in companies which also saw the first financial markets.

In 1648 ended the 80-year war (against Spain) and the 30-year war (European power conflicts) continues with the Peace of Westphalia and pulled the economy through the industry. Through an open and tolerant attitude ideas and inventions could be easily developed and the Netherlands had a lead in almost every area. Amsterdam became a staple market where all the information, goods, people and services in a relatively small place entered.

In 1672; the beginning of the Dutch Wars (Republic at war with England, France and the Dioceses of Cologne and Munster), economic growth over its endpoint back and that year is seen as the end of the Golden Age which followed a period of consolidation. The Republic was left with a huge debt, the bankruptcy of the Dutch West India Company (1674) and a country in decline by the victory of Louis XIV (Sun King) in the Republic of the Netherlands.

Louis XIV called for an absolute divine power for the king and lived as a Sun King at Versailles until (1715). In 1672 (after the fall of Johan de Witt, chief politician at that time) William III came to power as governor of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht and led his entire period as Protestant anti-French politics. William III ruled from 1689 to England, Ireland and Scotland. By William III, the Bank of England realized that assured him of the support of the English bankers.

After monitoring by the Sun King Louis XV (1715-1774) and Louis XVI (1774-1792) fell to the French Empire. The many wars, exuberant life and high taxes brought the monarchy into disrepute. That also led in 1789 to the French Revolution and the end of the French monarchy.

Verlichting (1630-1789)

In the 17th and 18th century came new ideas expressed on the basis of rationality and knowledge in the Enlightenment period. The lighting gave rise to modernization of society and gave confidence and optimism.

The belief in progress was expressed based on the belief of the engineered society on rational and reason. This speech led to new developments, fought against superstition, intolerance and the influence of the church and stood up for certain fundamental rights for citizens. The lighting at the beginning of Western values ​​as we know them now as individualization, globalization, secularization, emancipation and science (reason and empiricism). Equality, human rights, civil rights find their roots and are complemented by the free thinking with movements such as classical liberalism, socialism and anarchism.

The lighting has both a critical edge (against religion and irrationality) as a constructive side (science, justice and democracy). The first lighting focused on knowledge, truth and happiness, followed by the foundations of the lighting for the economy, sociology, pedagogy, anthropology, geography and ethnology. Spinoza, Kant and Descartes were three major philosophers of Enlightenment where reason was central.

Newton (natural laws of the universe) was one of the most important scientists of our time. The lighting was at the beginning of the separation of church and state and the beginnings of democracy. The ethic was based on the rational universal morality and not to the divine absolutism. The separation of powers (separation of powers: legislative, judicial and executive) guarantees freedom and equality of citizens (Montesques).

However, the weakness relief over time depending on what an atheist flow (Spinoza, desk artes) to a deist flow (a more withdrawn God). However, the lighting creates the basis for the French Revolution (aversion to the absolute power of King Louis XIV, XV and XVI).

French revolution

During the French Revolution (1789 storming of the Bastille, Paris) in the 18th century changed the feudal (aristocratic) system into a more democratic system in which the power of the monarchy, nobility and clergy into the hands of the Republic and the States General in France. Absolutism and aristocracy (abolition Royal in France) gave way to equality, liberty and fraternity.

In 1799 came Napoleon Bonaparte to power much of Europe under French (imperial) authority given by the Napoleonic Wars (United Kingdom, Russia, Austria and Prussia) Napoleon introduced many new things integral to promoting the unit as unit sizes, birth records, civil status, surnames and the abolition of privileges for nobles and clergy.

In 1815, Napoleon was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, leaving Europe at the Congress of Vienna had to be re-classified into nation states by the victorious powers. The Kingdom of the Netherlands was founded in 1815, which fell apart in 1830, making Belgium (former Southern Netherlands) emerged as a new state. The great dynasties under absolute monarchs were now largely replaced by national states with more or less dualistic political structure (control politicians and officials at the king). A shift from the noble and princely power occurred in the state bureaucracy (politicians and civil servants). This development was also accompanied by the rollout of the electricity, new sewage system, railways, depoldering, canals, roads etc. In addition to an increasing centralization and bureaucratisation also performed some form of democratization. Elected parliaments gained more legislative and monitoring powers in relation to the executive government power. The development of the Kingdom of the Netherlands makes this process of democratization seen.

Kingdom of the Netherlands

In 1815, William I called (also governor Willem VI) itself as king of the United Netherlands and his status was recognized by the European powers (Netherlands formed a buffer state against the mighty France). In 1840 did William I abdicated and was succeeded by King Willem II.

King William I had a progressive entrepreneur who invested heavily in the Dutch industry. So William I invested in digging canals, building roads and railways, depoldering, Rijksmunt, establishment Dutch Trade Company and the Dutch Central Bank.

William I took almost all decisions about themselves. William I characterized the first capitalist ruler in Europe with ideas from the industrial revolution in England. The goal was to make it a prosperous country of the Netherlands. Before coming Netherlands lived in complete poverty with a huge national debt and the inherited Netherlands (Batavian Republic 1795-1801) the misery of the French Revolution.

William I of the Netherlands also wanted to make a clear unitary state with the official Dutch language in Flanders and one religion. William I could count on resistance (1830, secession Belgium) from Flanders who had a clear Roman Catholic French culture. In 1839, William I recognized the Belgian State and resigned in 1840 because he had to relinquish more power to his ministers.

In 1848 arose in many countries uprisings aiming to obtain a more liberal political system rather than the absolute power of the king. Previously, from 1815 was the executive to the sovereign, who was assisted by his ministers who were only guilty of the king accountability. The Legislature came partly to the States General, which consisted of the first chamber (chosen by the king) and second chamber (elected by the provincial councils).

Thorbecke (chairman Ministers and constitutional committee) conducted in the Netherlands, the first significant legal constitution in. Netherlands got a constitutional monarchy in which ministers responsible (ministerial accountability) were not the King (William II, 1840-1849). There was a clear centralization, bureaucratisation and democratization place that has defined the nation in Netherlands greatly. The parliament and the provincial councils were then directly elected according to the poll tax (tax payments to vote).

The powers of the parliament were also expanded with the introduction of the right of amendment and interpellation survey (Moore). The democratization expanded imported during the period from 1848 to 1917. In 1917, universal suffrage was, in 1919 universal suffrage was extended to women.

Gradually the sovereign system of the absolute monarch was replaced by a more segregated society of Catholic, Protestants, liberals and socialists that his cause was sharper class divisions (the social issue of industrialization), the contradictions between denominational and non-denominational groups (school fight , equating public education) and the extension of universal suffrage.

King Willem II (1840-1849) was more of a general rather than absolute king (Hero Battle of Waterloo) and left much more space for the population and liberal thought. King William III (1849-1890) have had a hard time limiting royal power and had an erratic character (King Gorilla). After the death of William III joined Emma (wife Willem III) in the period 1890 to 1898 as Regent. Wilhelmina took at age 18 to the throne in 1898 and ruled until 1962.


Wilhelmina also had little interest in the politics of her time. Wilhelmina was well respected by her business acumen and became the royal capital to 2 billion by shares in Royal Dutch. Wilhelmina sent to a neutral Netherlands in the First World War and spoke to Netherlands from England via Radio Oranje in World War II. In 1948, Queen Wilhelmina Juliana followed (1948-1980). Juliana reduced its loose style especially the distance between the monarchy and the people. Juliana was more interested in social issues than in financial and economic issues and defense issues. In 1980 Queen Beatrix succeeded her. Beatrix’s reign style was more businesslike and more royal. However, there was room for a personal message during the Christmas speeches. In 2013 Queen Beatrix abdicated King Willem-Alexander and followed her.