By the early eighteenth century, the economic primacy, cultural efflorescence, and geopolitical power of the Dutch Republic appeared to be waning. The end of this Golden Age was also an era of natural disasters. Between the late seventeenth and the mid-eighteenth century, Dutch communities weathered numerous calamities, including river and coastal floods, cattle plagues, and an outbreak of strange molluscs that threatened the literal foundations of the Republic. Adam Sundberg demonstrates that these disasters emerged out of longstanding changes in environment and society. They were also fundamental to the Dutch experience and understanding of eighteenth-century decline. Disasters provoked widespread suffering, but they also opened opportunities to retool management strategies, expand the scale of response, and to reconsider the ultimate meaning of catastrophe. Natural Disaster at the Closing of the Dutch Golden Age reveals a dynamic and often resilient picture of a society coping with calamity at odds with historical assessments of eighteenth-century stagnation.
1. Rampjaar reconsidered
2. 'Disasters in the year of peace': The first cattle plague, 1713–1720
3. 'The fattened land turned to salted ground': The Christmas flood of 1717 in Groningen
4. A plague from the sea: The shipworm epidemic, 1730-1735
5. 'Increasingly numerous and higher floods': The river floods of 1740–41
6. 'From a love of humanity and comfort for the fatherland': The second cattle plague, 1744–1764
7. The twin faces of calamity: Lessons of decline and disaster
Adam Sundberg is an associate professor of History at Creighton University. His work has appeared in Environmental History, Dutch Crossing, and The Low Countries Journal of Social and Economic History.
"What do floods, worms, and cattle plague have to do with the decline of the Dutch Republic in the eighteenth century? Everything according to Sundberg. Weaving a skilful blend of archival reconstruction with theoretical insight, he presents a novel interpretation of the Dutch past that emphasises environmental changes in rural areas over socio-economic and cultural considerations in urban centres. A fine book."
– Greg Bankoff, University of Hull
"Adam Sundberg demonstrates the enormous potential of historical disaster studies by using disasters as a lens to explore broader social, cultural, and environmental changes at the end of the Dutch Golden Age. Compellingly argued and vividly written, the book demonstrates that disasters were formative to Dutch identities."
– Lotte Jensen, Radboud University Nijmegen