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

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  • 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 of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7167
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    Cited by:

    1. Francesco Cinnirella & Jochen Streb, 2017. "Religious Tolerance as Engine of Innovation," CESifo Working Paper Series 6797, CESifo.
    2. Peter Sandholt Jensen & Markus Lampe & Paul Sharp & Christian Volmar Skovsgaard, 2018. "‘Getting to Denmark’: the Role of Elites for Development," Working Papers 0125, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    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. Valeriy Chichkanov & Lyubov Belyaevskaya-Plotnick, 2018. "Priority Development Areas in the Context of the Economic Security of Macro-Region," Economy of region, Centre for Economic Security, Institute of Economics of Ural Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, vol. 1(1), pages 227-242.
    6. Gregg, Matthew T., 2018. "The long-term effects of American Indian boarding schools," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 17-32.
    7. Ruth Maria Schüler, 2018. "Bildungsökonomik aus historischer Perspektive," ifo Beiträge zur Wirtschaftsforschung, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, number 78, December.

    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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