Schaaper Reflection – MM

The passage I chose discusses how the major cities of the Netherlands developed in different ways depending on the political and cultural factors of the time. In the case of Rotterdam, its willingness to enter into the Eighty Years’ War before Amsterdam provided it with an economic opportunity. Schaaper discusses the way the War influenced the various cities differently as well, creating divides within the Netherlands. What fascinates me is the very idea that war can be so economically advantageous. If you look at the so-called “Dutch Golden Age,” which despite its potentially misleading name certainly does represent a period of economic growth and immense cultural output for the Dutch, it was dominated by the Eighty Years’ War. The period of Dutch history dominated by an incredibly violent and destructive war was also the time it came into its own as a distinct culture and polity and a European economic powerhouse. Just as the Dutch took a flood-prone landscape and transformed it into cities, finding opportunity in a seemingly inopportune environment, they were thrust into a disastrous war and were able to strengthen their society and economy because of it.

A question I would have for Mr. Schaaper: What made Calvinism attractive to Dutch economic elites? Why did they convert? What made them turn away from the security and economic stability of Catholic Europe and risk rebellion?

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2 thoughts on “Schaaper Reflection – MM

  1. Watching the latter two videos in Schaaper’s Amsterdam Crash Course, I kept coming back to a major theme: the usage of Dutch landscapes as a blank canvas for new architectural styles, often designed primarily with human needs in mind rather than geographical concerns. The fact that the Dutch are so effective in their manipulation of the natural environment, aided in part by the flat topography, means that there were rarely obstacles which couldn’t be overcome by Dutch architects and engineers. The only real limits were time, money, and political will, rather than running into natural geographic boundaries. To explain what I mean, the examples of Los Angeles and Vancouver come to mind. Both spread out from a city center, with few other smaller nuclei of settlement around them. But these two cities began to push into mountains, which created a variety of challenges. Suburban neighborhoods with unique layouts were built into the canyons and foothills, and these cities developed irregular shapes and numerous appendages which spread out in different directions by necessity. Amsterdam, in contrast, is largely concentric in layout, and irregularities in street layout and waterways exist more because of changing architectural styles and ideals of urban planning. When the time, money, and political will was there, rivers would be tamed and land made usable for new experiments in city design, creating concentric rings of varied styles.

    A new question I have: how did the First World War affect Amsterdam and, more widely, the Netherlands at large?

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