During the Middle Ages, the Netherlands played a significant role in the emergence of capitalism, which led to the impressive Dutch Golden Age and paved the way for long-term economic growth across Europe.
Pioneers of Capitalism: The Netherlands 1000-1800 (Princeton University Press, 2022)' by Maarten Prak and Jan Luiten van Zanden sheds light on the informal institutions that made this economic revolution possible. Using the latest quantitative theories in economic research, the authors illustrate how Dutch cities, corporations, guilds, commons, and other private and semipublic organizations created safeguards for market transactions even in the absence of state regulations. In fact, informal institutions developed in the Netherlands long before public safeguards for economic activity were established. According to the authors, capitalism emerged within a robust civil society in the Netherlands that contained and balanced its centrifugal forces. However, an unbridled capitalism flourished in overseas territories, resulting in slavery and other severe consequences for people outside Europe. Despite this, the Dutch economy thrived, and the country transformed into a powerhouse of sustained economic growth. Pioneers of Capitalism offers a panoramic account of the early history of capitalism, revealing the remarkable transformation of a small region in medieval Europe into a world-changing economic force.
Javier Mejia is an economist at Stanford University who specializes in the intersection of social networks and economic history. His research interests also include entrepreneurship and political economy, with a particular focus on Latin America and the Middle East. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Los Andes University. Mejia has previously been a Postdoctoral Associate and Lecturer at New York University-Abu Dhabi and a Visiting Scholar at the University of Bordeaux. He is also a frequent contributor to various news outlets, currently serving as an op-ed columnist for Forbes Magazine.