Adam SundbergAug 12, 2022
Natural Disaster at the Closing of the Dutch Golden Age
Cambridge University Press 2022
By the early eighteenth century, the economic primacy, cultural efflorescence, and geopolitical power of the Dutch Republic appeared to be waning. The end of this Golden Age was also an era of natural disasters. Between the late seventeenth and the mid-eighteenth century, Dutch communities weathered numerous calamities, including river and coastal floods, cattle plagues, and an outbreak of strange mollusks that threatened the literal foundations of the Republic.
Adam Sundberg’s new book, Natural Disaster at the Closing of the Dutch Golden Age (Cambridge UP, 2022), demonstrates that these disasters emerged out of longstanding changes in environment and society. They were also fundamental to the Dutch experience and understanding of eighteenth-century decline. Disasters provoked widespread suffering, but they also opened opportunities to retool management strategies, expand the scale of response, and to reconsider the ultimate meaning of catastrophe. This book reveals a dynamic and often resilient picture of a society coping with calamity at odds with historical assessments of eighteenth-century stagnation.
Douglas Bell is a writer, teacher, and historian who lives in the Netherlands. His research interests center on American military history, American foreign policy, German history, and European Studies. Tweet him @douglasibell.