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Why Did the Netherlands Develop So Early? The Legacy of the Brethren of the Common Life

Author

Listed:
  • Akçomak, I. Semih

    () (Middle East Technical University)

  • Webbink, Dinand

    () (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

  • ter Weel, Bas

    () (SEO Amsterdam)

Abstract

This research provides an explanation for high literacy, economic growth and societal developments in the Netherlands in the period before the Dutch Republic. We establish a link between the Brethren of the Common Life (BCL), a religious community founded by Geert Groote in the city of Deventer in the late fourteenth century, and the early development of the Netherlands. The BCL stimulated human capital accumulation by educating Dutch citizens without inducing animosity from the dominant Roman Catholic Church or other political rulers. Human capital had an impact on the structure of economic development in the period immediately after 1400. The educated workforce put pressure on the Habsburg monarchy leading to economic and religious resentment and eventually to the Revolt in 1572. The analyses show that the BCL contributed to the high rates of literacy in the Netherlands. In addition, there are positive effects of the BCL on book production and on city growth in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Finally, we find that cities with BCL-roots were more likely to join the Dutch Revolt. These findings are supported by regressions that use distance to Deventer as an instrument for the presence of BCL. The results are robust to a number of alternative explanations.

Suggested Citation

  • Akçomak, I. Semih & Webbink, Dinand & ter Weel, Bas, 2013. "Why Did the Netherlands Develop So Early? The Legacy of the Brethren of the Common Life," IZA Discussion Papers 7167, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7167
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:joepsy:v:63:y:2017:i:c:p:184-198 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Luciano Lavecchia, 2015. "A note on social capital, space and growth in Europe," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 1017, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    3. Becker, Sascha O. & Pfaff, Steven & Rubin, Jared, 2016. "Causes and consequences of the Protestant Reformation," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 1-25.
    4. Skali, Ahmed, 2017. "Moralizing gods and armed conflict," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 184-198.
    5. repec:ura:ecregj:v:1:y:2018:i:1:p:227-242 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:eee:deveco:v:130:y:2018:i:c:p:17-32 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    societal change; religion; economic development; literacy;

    JEL classification:

    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N93 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • J20 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - General

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