1. History of urban centers in the Low Countries – As such, this article covers the development of Dutch and Flemish cities beginning at the end of the migration period till the end of the Dutch Golden Age. During Roman times, the Low Countries belonged to the provinces of the empire. Probably because of the fear of Germanic incursions, Roman settlements were extremely sparse and these together formed the only population centers which surpassed the native villages of the time in terms of architecture and, in some cases, population. The only possible exception was the city of Atuatuca Tungrorum, which became one of the earliest centers of Christianity in the Low Countries. Unsurprisingly, it was on or around the of these Castra, very little is known about these settlements, apart from archeological material, as there was little literacy at the time. From around the 10th century, mainly due to population growth, around the 11th century, some of these cities begin to form networks of urban centers. In the Low Countries these appeared in 3 regions, at first in the County of Flanders in the South, then followed by the County of Holland in the North and Northern Guelders/Oversticht in the East. The cities located in the center of the Low Countries were able to profit of both of the Flemish and Hollandic cities and no real urban network emerged there, in the North of the Low Countries, however, such as Frisia and Groningen, cities remained relatively isolated. Groningen is still nicknamed stad within its province, signaling its position as the city in the region as well as its isolation. The principal urban center in the County of Flanders was focused on the cities of Bruges, Ghent, the textile industry in this area flourished which provided the region with enormous wealth, as well as attracting various other trades. The area was notorious for its civil uprisings, by 1500 these cities had lost their leading position within the Low Countries to Antwerp, though still playing an important role. In the East of the Low Countries, a number of towns aligned themselves with the Hanseatic cities and this sparked a sudden economic boom for these cities, principally Zutphen, Kampen, Deventer, Elburg, Doesburg, Zwolle and their immediate surroundings. The boom was short, as Hollandic, Flemish and English merchants tried breaking open the Baltic trade. Eventually they formed the bulk of the fleet sailing on Bruges and Ghent. It wasnt till the Fall of Antwerp that the Hollandic cities would truly expand, from 1550 CE onwards a two trade hubs start to emerge which for the first time truly dominate the entirety of the Low Countries. The first is Antwerp, the second is Amsterdam, after the silting of the river Zwin and the consequent decline of Bruges, the city of Antwerp, with its connection to the less silting-prone Scheldt, becomes of importance. At the end of the 15th century the trading houses were transferred from Bruges to Antwerp. Fernand Braudel states that Antwerp became the center of the entire international economy—something Bruges had never been even at its height, antwerps Golden Age was tightly linked to the Age of ExplorationHistory of urban centers in the Low Countries – Objects found excavating the remains of Dorestad.
2. Regenten – In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the regenten were the rulers of the Dutch Republic, the leaders of the Dutch cities or the heads of organisations. Though not formally a hereditary class, they were de facto patricians, since the late Middle Ages Dutch cities had been run by the richer merchant families, who gradually formed a closed group. From the latter part of the 17th century the regent families were able to reserve government offices to themselves via quasi-formal contractual arrangements, in practice they could only be dislodged by political upheavals, like the Orangist revolution of 1747 and the Patriot revolt of 1785. The regenten as the ruling class originated in the 13th century. The nobilitys and rulers incomes were often not enough to pay their mercenaries or their own army and they therefore needed financial assistance from the up-and-coming merchant class in the growing towns. This class could thus induce the sovereigns to grant municipal charters and city rights and this newly acquired autonomy brought into being a new group of managers next to the sovereigns deputy, the schout, to run the city. These city councillors were often recruited from the wealthiest citizens, medieval city-dwellers were of the opinion that the vroedschap, from which the magistrates were chosen, had to consist of de weisten, treffelijksten en rijksten van de stadsbevolking. Men of wealth were deemed to be the people most able to guarantee the prosperity of the city, to keep the peace was in their personal interest, and because they were already rich, one could hope that they would not plunder the city coffers. In the first half of the 15th century, the Burgundian dukes tightened their grip on the cities in the county of Holland. Philip the Good promoted the situation in which the regenten could exert a greater control over the city and her inhabitants, the vroedschappen were given the power to co-opt members, instead of using a more open electoral process. Members of a vroedschap were usually appointed for life, or during good behavior, similar developments took place in the other provinces. The vroedschap was the body that nominated candidates for burgemeesters and schepenen in annual or biannual elections and these nominees were usually members of the vroedschap, though this was not a formal requirement for office. Members of the vroedschap were usually also the representatives of the cities that voted in the states of the provinces and these arrangements remained basically in place after the Dutch Revolt. From then on, the regenten were the de facto. Formally, little changed in the arrangements of the republic. Equally, the same 18 cities made up the states held the vote before. What changed after the revolt was the makeup of these institutions. In most cities the old regenten were purged, and replaced with adherents to the new political order, in general, Catholic regenten were replaced with supporters of the New ReligionRegenten – Group portrait Regenten Oudemannenhuis at Haarlem by Frans Hals, 1664
3. Schutterij – Schutterij refers to a voluntary city guard or citizen militia in the medieval and early modern Netherlands, intended to protect the town or city from attack and act in case of revolt or fire. Their training grounds were often on open spaces within the city, near the city walls, but and they are mostly grouped according to their district and to the weapon that they used, bow, crossbow or gun. Together, its members are called a Schuttersgilde, which could be translated as a shooters guild. It is now a title applied to ceremonial shooting clubs and to the countrys Olympic rifle team, the schutterij, civic guard, or town watch, was a defensive military support system for the local civic authority. Its officers were wealthy citizens of the town, appointed by the city magistrates and its captain was usually a wealthy inhabitant of the district, and the groups ensign was a wealthy young bachelor. Joining as an officer for a couple of years was often a stepping-stone to other important posts within the city council, the members were expected to buy their own equipment, this entailed the purchase of a weapon and uniform. Each night two men guarded their district in two shifts, from 10,00 p. m. until 2,00 a. m. at a set time each month, the schutters would parade under the command of an officer. The ideal was that, for every hundred inhabitants, three would belong to the schutterij, the Dutch Mennonites were excluded from a position in the schutterij in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries and paid a double tax in lieu of service. Roman Catholics were permitted in the lower regions, persons in the service of the city, and the citys Jews, did not need to serve. The beer and peat bearers had to serve as the towns firefighters instead, the schutters or cloveniers met at target practice grounds called Doelen. These fields were generally adjoining a building where they met indoors for gymnastic exercises. It was in great halls where the large group portraits hung for centuries. These locations were not the place the schutters met each other. These guilds also kept altars in churches, where they met for religious reasons. Most schutterij guilds had as patron saints Saint Sebastian, Saint Anthony, Saint George and these religious duties were a significant part of the guild membership since that is also where they paid their dues. After the Protestant Reformation, all the altars were disbanded in the Dutch Reformed churches in the Northern Netherlands, and membership dues were no longer paid in church, but at the city hall. After 1581, the schutterij were officially prohibited from influencing city politics, but since the ruling regenten were all members of these guilds, once a year they held a banquet, with beer and a roasted ox. Whenever a changeover of the leading officers occurred, a painter was invited to paint the membersSchutterij – The Amsterdam archery militia whose patron saint was St. Sebastian, in 1653 by Bartholomeus van der Helst
4. Tulip mania – Tulip mania or tulipomania was a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which contract prices for bulbs of the recently introduced tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly collapsed. At the peak of tulip mania, in March 1637, some single tulip bulbs sold for more than 10 times the income of a skilled craftsman. The term tulip mania is now often used metaphorically to refer to any large economic bubble when asset prices deviate from intrinsic values, the 1637 event was popularized in 1841 by the book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, written by British journalist Charles Mackay. According to Mackay, at one point 12 acres of land were offered for a Semper Augustus bulb, Mackay claims that many such investors were ruined by the fall in prices, and Dutch commerce suffered a severe shock. Although Mackays book is a classic, his account is contested, many modern scholars feel that the mania was not as extraordinary as Mackay described and argue that not enough price data are available to prove that a tulip bulb bubble actually occurred. Research is difficult because of the economic data from the 1630s—much of which come from biased. Some modern economists have proposed rational explanations, rather than a speculative mania, for the rise, for example, other flowers, such as the hyacinth, also had high initial prices at the time of their introduction, which immediately fell. The high asset prices may also have driven by expectations of a parliamentary decree that contracts could be voided for a small cost—thus lowering the risk to buyers. Tulip bulbs were soon distributed from Vienna to Augsburg, Antwerp and he planted his collection of tulip bulbs and found they were able to tolerate the harsher conditions of the Low Countries, shortly thereafter the tulip began to grow in popularity. The tulip was different from other flower known to Europe at that time. The appearance of the tulip as a status symbol at this time coincides with the rise of newly independent Hollands trade fortunes. No longer the Spanish Netherlands, its resources could now be channeled into commerce. Amsterdam merchants were at the center of the lucrative East Indies trade, as a result, tulips rapidly became a coveted luxury item, and a profusion of varieties followed. They were classified in groups, the tulips of red, yellow, or white were known as Couleren, the multicolored Rosen, Violetten, and the rarest of all. The multicolor effects of intricate lines and flame-like streaks on the petals were vivid and spectacular, growers named their new varieties with exalted titles. Many early forms were prefixed Admirael, often combined with the growers names, generael was another prefix used for around thirty varieties. Later varieties were given even more extravagant names, derived from Alexander the Great or Scipio, or even Admiral of Admirals, however, naming could be haphazard and varieties highly variable in quality. Most of these varieties have now died out, tulips grow from bulbs, and can be propagated through both seeds and budsTulip mania – A tulip, known as "the Viceroy" (viseroij), displayed in the 1637 Dutch catalog 'Verzameling van een Meenigte Tulipaanen'. Its bulb cost between 3,000 and 4,200 guilders (florins) depending on size (aase). A skilled craftsman at the time earned about 300 guilders a year.